Union leaders locally have said they’ll be negotiating with “eyes wide open” as firefighters and police officers are some of the most at-risk essential workers. Michael Franczak, executive manager of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Great Lakes District, said union contracts will likely focus around compensation in the next few years. He told the Journal-News last month “safety will be a continuing issue at the bargaining table.”
“I would imagine there would be language in there that deals with safety protections, both internally and externally, for bargaining unit members,” Franczak said in June.
The new union and township are still a few weeks away from heading into their first collective bargaining session. Smith said they the Ohio State Employment Relations Board is still processing paperwork, and they’re still waiting for the township to formally recognize the union. Township Administrator Julie Vonderhaar said the township’s attorney is reviewing paperwork.
“I don’t have concerns,” Vonderhaar said of the new union being formed. “I think both parties will come to the table ... we’ll have a professional conversation. I think both parties will come to the table, ready to be professional, and realistic (with the budget).”
Vonderhaar said it’s not unexpected a union formed with the fire department as it’s “a sign that we’re growing.”
The township already has bargaining units for its police officers and sergeants, both of which will begin negotiations for a new three-year contract in 2021.
Fairfield Twp. is the 45th largest township in Ohio based on the 2010 Census, and is projected to have nearly 23,000 residents. Township officials have said they believe the township will surpass others when the 2020 Census data is released at the end of March.
The department still has the Fairfield Twp. Firefighters Association (FTFA), which Smith said will not go away as it represents all 10 full-time staff and the 84 part-time staff. Some of the association’s functions will be absorbed into the union, but some, such as honor guard duty and financial support for a firefighter in need, will remain with the FTFA.