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Fire union disputes city contention

Streator City Manager Scot Wrighton suggests the firefighters union demands it be consulted whenever duties change or new training is required.

That's not so, the union says.

Since 2016, city management has sparred with the union over the addition of emergency medical service duties to firefighters' responsibilities, which resulted in many more calls a year.

Last month, the union withdrew a complaint with the state labor board the city had failed to bargain over the addition of EMS duties. This was in return for the city agreeing to arbitration, a development the union characterized as a victory.

In a statement last week, Wrighton said, "The city has always said that it is inappropriate for the union to demand that we consult the union immediately every time we add a new training session, piece of equipment or slightly change job duties just to see if they want more money for the change."

After Wrighton made that statement, Kurt Snow, president of the Streator chapter of the International Association of Firefighters, said he fact-checked it.

Over the weekend, Snow created a list of 23 instances in which the department received new pieces of equipment, new training and slight changes of job duties over the last decade. Not one time, he said, did the union ask for more money because of the change.

The list, which Snow tweeted, included among other things an equipment upgrade for water rescue, a new radio system, training for hazardous materials operations, expanded fire inspections and a new smoke detector program.

The one exception over the years, Snow said, was a major change in job duties — emergency medical response — which resulted in a 300 percent increase in the department's call volume.

"Just because we get a new piece of equipment doesn't mean we can ask for more money," Snow said in an interview Monday. "It's a benefit for us to get new equipment."

Wrighton was unable to be reached for comment Monday on Snow's information. Collective bargaining agreements are made in closed session.

In December, Wrighton injected a fundraising effort for fire department river rescue equipment into the city's dispute with the union.

In a statement to the City Council, Wrighton said the city would shift ownership of the yet-to-be-purchased boats to a statewide mutual aid organization, saying the city didn't know whether firefighters would ask for more money when they were deployed in river rescue boats.

In response, Snow told The Times the union would not seek more money, noting the department already performed river rescue — just without boats.

In a later email to the newspaper, Wrighton said the union failed to inform the city it would not seek more money.

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