Hagerstown, Maryland Rejects Arbitration with Firefighters
The town of Hagerstown, Maryland has rejected binding arbitration proposed by the International Association of Fire Fighters, Local 1605. The arbitration was to settle an ongoing contract dispute between the union and the city council. The IAF suggested that while it was disappointed with the decision of the City Council, it would be willing to sit down with the town and continue negotiations.
The city rejected binding arbitration on the grounds that it could potentially interfere with the council’s ability to govern, as they would have no control over the final decision of the arbitrator, who might not fully understand the budget and governing issues facing the council. If an arbitrator’s decision was unexpectedly costly, that cost would have to be shifted to the taxpayers in the city. The council also asserted that the town’s current charter does not allow for arbitration to determine city policy, so agreeing to arbitration would require a change to the charter.
The union has launched a petition seeking to compel the council into arbitration. For such a petition to be enforceable, the union must collect signatures from 20% of the city’s registered voters, and recently the City Clerk confirmed that the union had collected enough signatures to proceed to the next stage of the petition process, with 4,840 valid signatures collected.
Both sides have expressed a desire to continue negotiations, although it should be noted that previously, as much as four months have passed without any face-to-face meetings between the union and council.