The city’s fire union president will meet with Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch today about the ongoing work contract dispute between the city and its firefighters. The meeting comes after Couch wrote fire union president Phil Sipe last week to tentatively accept an offer Sipe mentioned in a story in The Oklahoman days earlier. Sipe confirmed the meeting Thursday. Couch declined to comment, citing ongoing negotiations, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said.
Election set over raiseNegotiations between the city and International Association of Firefighters Local 157 concerning next year’s firefighter work contract stalled this summer. Arbitrators later gave the firefighters the 1 percent raise they sought. City officials have said they cannot afford such a raise. In response, city council members set a Feb. 9 election in which voters will decide whether the firefighters should get a raise. City employees did not get raises this year. Both sides said they are trying to avoid the election and hope to reach an agreement beforehand.
‘Me too’ acceptableToday’s meeting is the result of a blunt letter Couch sent Sipe last week that said council members are willing to accept an offer Sipe described in a story in The Oklahoman, which Couch attached to the letter. In the story, Sipe said the union had agreed to forgo raises for city firefighters this year and roll over last year’s contract if a "me too” clause was included. The "me too” clause would guarantee raises for firefighters if the city gives other employees raises, which officials do not plan to do this year. But council members have never received such an offer. Offers the union submitted with the "me too” clause included additional benefits requests that city officials contend would cost millions. "At no time have I been aware of proposals submitted to the City by the IAFF that included only the rollover with the ‘me too’ clause,” Couch wrote in the letter. Couch continued: "Nonetheless, I am authorized by the City Council to accept the IAFF offer to roll over the contract with the ‘me too’ clause for fiscal year 2009-2010. Please advise when you are available to sign a tentative agreement.” Sipe said he is not planning to bring a new offer to the meeting, but hopes it will be productive. "It is our desire to continue to try to communicate with the city,” Sipe said.
fire union president
To view previous stories on the contract dispute between the city and its firefighters, go to NewsOK’s continuing coverage page.