Excerpts from jg-tc.com:

The city recently paid a total of $79,000 in compensatory damages to 32 current and retired firefighters in a Mattoon Fire Department staffing level case that began on Feb. 22, 2018, when the city and Mattoon Firefighters Association Local 691 were in arbitration on union claims that the city failed to maintain minimum staffing of 30 firefighters as required by contract.

Arbitrator Gill Vernon found on April 9, 2018, that the city had violated this requirement and ordered the city to bring staffing up to 30, from the low 20s. He also ordered the two parties to reach an agreement on a monetary penalty. The city and the union were unable to reach an agreement, and this dispute ultimately led to a hearing before Circuit Judge Matthew Sullivan on Dec. 3, 2019.

Sullivan granted the union’s motion for summary judgment and the arbitration award that Vernon had issued on June 17, 2019. This remedy included $79,000 in damages for distribution among all current and former firefighters who served at the time in question. The city also was ordered to pay $19,059 in attorney fees for the union, $9,225 in reimbursement for lost union dues, and $3,900 in arbitrator fees. The Mattoon City Council voted on Jan. 7 to pay the compensatory damages, which will be covered by the city’s insurance fund. 

Meanwhile, the Mattoon firefighters union awaits the scheduling of an Illinois Labor Relations Board hearing, the outcome of which could affect the upcoming arbitration session for a new collective bargaining agreement with the city. They have been operating under the previous contract, which expired on April 30, 2018.

The arbitration session will not be held until after the Illinois Labor Relations Board hears an appeal from the union about the board’s 2018 dismissal of an unfair labor practice against the city. The charge had alleged that the city engaged in unfair labor practices when it eliminated the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service without providing notice to or bargaining with the union.

Arbitrator George Fitzsimmons ruled on April 18, 2018, in favor of the city’s plans to eliminate the Mattoon Fire Department’s ambulance service on July 25, 2018, as part of efforts to deal with city budget deficits. Mitchell-Jerdan Ambulance Service, a longtime provider in Mattoon, was part of the ambulance call rotation with the fire department’s service and is now the sole provider in town.

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