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Little movement on Pa. firefighters contract

February 10, 2003|by STACEY DANZUSO

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - After nearly two years of negotiations, Chambersburg firefighters are still waiting to sign a new contract.

The International Association of Firefighters Local 1813 and the borough began negotiations on a new contract in the spring of 2001. The two sides soon moved to arbitration.

Although the arbitration panel has held several executive discussion sessions since then, there is still no decision, Borough Solicitor Tom Finucane said.

"We haven't heard anything recently," he said.

"We could get a decision tomorrow, or it may be in three months," Finucane said. "The disadvantage of arbitration is it keeps people up in the air as to what happens."

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Patrick Martin, president of the union, said he is hopeful the process is drawing to a close.

"There has been no award yet, but we are expecting one soon," he said.

In the meantime, the firefighters remain on the job.

"We are kind of discouraged it is taking so long. But sometimes that can be typical," Martin said. "There were a lot of issues on the table they had to deal with, and that could be why it is taking so long."

Nearly a year ago, Franklin County President Judge John R. Walker ruled in favor of the firefighters to continue working their current schedule until contract negotiations are final, in keeping with a ruling by the arbitration panel.

The panel ruled the borough's 18 paid firefighters should keep the schedule they worked for the last five years - 24 hours on duty followed by 48 hours off.

The borough argued that the 1996 contract stipulates that unless new terms were reached by Dec. 15, 2001, the firefighters would revert to a 10-hour/14-hour schedule.

The three-person arbitration panel met most recently last month, Finucane said.

The union's attorney previously said that in addition to their schedule, the firefighters and borough are at an impasse on other demands, including wage and the size of the department.

Meanwhile, borough officials successfully negotiated a contract with the borough's police officers union after entering into arbitration last spring.

The parties finally reached an agreement on their own and approved a four-year deal last month that gives the officers the option of living outside of the borough, which was a point of contention for years.

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