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After more than 12 months of negotiations, Council declared an impasse on contract negotiations with the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) Local 2665, the union representing the Fire Department. This occurred in a public meeting on March 7, 2023. Because of reaching an impasse with the IAFF, the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement was terminated.
City Council and City Leadership determined that Local 2665 has engaged in surface bargaining and negotiated in bad faith. Both parties have submitted offers that were rejected, but repeatedly the City has experienced the union taking steps backward to re-open items and issues that had already been agreed upon.
Impasse is a legal term, which indicates that contract negotiations have stalled and are no longer productive. This does not mean that the City will not continue to meet and confer with the Local 2665 on conditions of employment and in furtherance of the constitutional protections afforded to public sector employees.
The Webster Groves City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, March 7 to implement the compensation portion of the last, best and final offer, made by the City. As a result, Fire Department members received pay adjustments and cost of living increases as outlined below. If the IAFF desires to restart negotiations in good faith, the City will negotiate with the Fire Department on staffing and all other conditions of employment. The City has maintained from the start of negotiations, and continues to assert, any agreement must include mechanisms to contain the rampant overtime spending.
Staffing changes were needed due to the uncontrolled overtime costs. Even with the changes to Webster Groves staffing, we are one of two municipalities in the entire St. Louis region that schedules staff at 12 per shift. The daily staffing of 12 per shift has not changed from the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement minimum staffing requirements. The factor that has changed is that now when 2 staff are absent, the Fire Department will operate with 10 on shift.
Previously, the City did not have flexibility in staffing, resulting in paying overtime to “staff up” to 12 per shift. The new implementation retains NFPA best practices and in the event that 2 staff are absent, the City has the authority to keep the staffing level at 10 to address overtime spending.
The Fire Department Fiscal Year overtime has been:
The continued rampant overtime expenditures are unsustainable for the City. The City values the Fire Department but must also be fiscally responsive to the needs of all Departments.
The City of Webster Groves continues to staff each shift according to the best practice standard set by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) for ladder trucks. The City of Webster Groves has committed to always scheduling 4 Firefighters on a ladder truck. The only time there will be fewer than 4 Firefighters on an engine (not the ladder), is if 2 staff are absent during a shift. If only 10 staff members are available due to sick/vacation leave, workers comp, FMLA, or Military leave, staffing will be reduced to 10 persons on shift. There will never be less than 10 persons on shift in the fire service in Webster Groves; overtime will be paid to staff members on-call or willing to report to maintain service.
These staffing adjustments will put us in line with our municipal neighbors. The chart in the next question outlines how we compare to other Fire Departments in the Mid-County Area.
As the below table indicates, Webster Groves is staffed to safely meet the community's needs. The safety of the Firefighters and the preservation of life and property is the City’s highest priority and will continue to be maintained.
*Daily minimum staffing is current as of 3/10/2023.
The Webster Groves Fire Department maintains a Class 2 ISO rating from the Insurance Services Office (ISO). This is the second highest possible rating for fire protection services. Four areas are evaluated to determine this rating: Emergency communications, water supply, fire risk assessment and community risk reduction. The limited and occasional staffing adjustments will not affect the ISO rating.
The last, best and final offer that the City implemented on March 7th includes the following:
All told, the compensation for Fire Fighters over three Fiscal Years (FY 23, FY 24, FY 25) is over 11 million dollars.
In 2021, the City of Webster Groves hired an outside consultant to conduct a compensation and classification study. While the study did find that some positions within the City were underpaid, the Fire Department positions were found to be in line with others in the area, especially municipalities. You can view the current compensation of our Captains and Firefighter paramedics on our website here.
There is not a hiring freeze within the City of Webster Groves. We continue to recruit and hire excellent employees in both the Police and Fire Departments.