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City of Sunnyside, firefighters settle grievance

A grievance filed by Sunnyside firefighters more than two years ago was resolved last night when the city council agreed to a compromise.

Council wrapped up the matter Monday following a 15-minute executive session. It settled a dispute that began Dec. 29, 2005 when the city revoked a 24-hour Kelly Day, which essentially provided firefighters 24 hours of paid leave every 27 days to address the 24-on, 24-off schedule they work the rest of the month.

The city action was met by a grievance filed by the International Association of Fire Fighters. Gene Smith is a captain with the fire department and said last night that the case resulted because firefighters felt the city didn't have the right to pull the Kelly Day.

Following arbitration, a judge agreed that the city had the right to cancel Kelly Days, but had to compensate firefighters for the extra unpaid time they had worked.

The result was negotiations and an agreement that pays all eight firefighters employed since Dec. 29, 2005 a one time amount of $3,500.

Sunnyside in turn still retains the right to cancel the Kelly Days, but if that happens a process is now in place by which the city would pay 12 hours of overtime every 27 days. Further, the city would be required to pay each firefighter 6.25 percent more to make up for the extra regular hours they would be asked to work.

Smith said the agreement comes just in time, as Sunnyside and firefighters will begin this July to craft the next three-year contract. The current bargaining agreement ends this year.

"I'm glad it's done," Smith said of the grievance. Interim City Manager Mark Kunkler said "it's huge" to have it out of the way before contract negotiations begin anew. "It gives us a good platform to build on for the next contract."

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