Day-to-day police and firefighting services across Topeka shouldn’t suffer as a result of impasses declared in contract talks between the city government and its rank-and-file police officers and firefighters.
“The declaration of impasse is a contractual matter that should not change service provided to citizens,” said a statement The Capital-Journal received Thursday from Charles Wilson, president of Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, and Matt Blassingame, chief union steward for that lodge.
“However, the stability given through a finalized agreement can have a positive impact on recruiting, hiring and retention of officers,” they added.
FOP Lodge No. 3, which represents 244 Topeka police officers with the rank of sergeant and below in collective bargaining, announced June 15 that an impasse had been declared in its contract talks with the city.
Local No. 83, of the International Association of Firefighters, which represents 210 Topeka firefighters with the rank of captain and below in collective bargaining, announced Wednesday that an impasse had been declared June 11 in its contract talks with the city.
Topeka police and firefighters continue to work under collective bargaining agreements that remain in effect, running from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2021.
Both sides say they would continue under those agreements, If the impasse continues beyond 2021, until a new contract is in place.
How long have talks been going on?
Contract talks between the city and the FOP began in early February, Wilson said. Talks between the city and the IAFF started in early March, said Aaron Freeman, president of IAAF Local No. 83.
Who negotiates for each side?
Topeka police officers and firefighters personally go to the bargaining table to negotiate contracts on behalf of the FOP and the IAFF. The city has a team of negotiators that includes legal, human resources, finance and management personnel, said Molly Hadfield, the city’s media relations
What does it mean to go to an impasse?
A bargaining impasse occurs when the two sides negotiating an agreement consider themselves deadlocked and unable to reach an agreement.
What happens now?
Kansas law requires the two sides at impasse to meet with a mediator, who helps them try to agree on a contract. If that’s unsuccessful, they present their positions to a factfinder, who prepares a report and recommendations for them to review and discuss.
If that doesn’t bring about an agreement, Kansas law enables governing body members to unilaterally establish a contract. The Shawnee County Commission did that in 2006 for Shawnee County sheriff deputies, who were represented in contract talks by the FOP.
How long might an impasse last?
Months, and sometimes years. After a three-year employment contract between Topeka’s city government and the IAFF expired on Dec. 31, 2004, a new contract wasn’t reached until December 2006.
The Topeka City Council that month approved an agreement — ratified the previous week by a majority of IAFF members — that gave the firefighters a pay raise in exchange for their agreeing to comply with then-Fire Chief Howard Giles’ request that they sacrifice certain rights and benefits that had long been under union control.
When did city contract talks last go all the way to fact-finding?
That was after the city’s agreement with the labor union representing about 75 employees in its water division expired on Dec. 31, 2017. After two unsuccessful attempts to resolve matters with a mediator, the two parties presented their positions on 11 unresolved items to a factfinder, who prepared a report and recommendations, Capital-Journal archives show.
The two sides reviewed and discussed that report, then mutually resolved all but three issues. The city’s governing body then decided those in votes taken on June 18, 2019.