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Firefighters Claim Court Victory Against City of Alameda

Last week, Alameda Firefighters, IAFF Local 689 announced that they had won a victory over the City of Alameda when Alameda County Superior Court Judge Wynne Carvill ordered the City of Alameda to participate in binding arbitration as regards a grievance filed by the Firefighters Association, regarding amendments to a City Ordinance that provides retiree health and dental care to firefighters and police officers.

The dispute goes back to October 6, 2009, when the City Attorney, Teresa Highsmith, presented Alameda City Council with an amendment to Ordinance number 2497, which governs medical and dental insurance provided to public employees. The intent of the amendment, wrote Highsmith, was to reduce the cost of benefits provided to future public safety employees hired after November 1, 2009. (The date was later changed to January 2, 2010.) The amendment was passed on October 20, 2009, on a 4-1 Council vote, with Councilmembers Johnson, deHaan, Matarrese and Gilmore in favor, and Tam against.

The firefighters say that the amendment “pre-conditioned” negotiations with the City about changes to public safety employee benefits intended to stem rising City costs, and eliminated any benefits for newly hired firefighters “without meeting and conferring in good faith.” The firefighters filed a grievance with the City in February of 2010, which they say was denied, and then filed a motion to compel arbitration in May of this year, resulting in last week’s decision by Judge Carvill to compel the City to participate in arbitration.

No dates have been set, and no arbitrators have yet been selected to resolve the matter.

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