PENDLETON - City firefighters have prevailed in two grievances they filed against the city last August.
Arbitrator Eric Lindauer of Salem ruled this week that the city violated its contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local No. 2296, which represents Pendleton firefighters.
"It was regrettable that we even had to fight this battle in the first place," said John Wooten, president of the Pendleton firefighters union local. "It 's not something that we wanted to do. We would have preferred that they honored the agreement and did what they were supposed to do."
City Manager Larry Lehman said the city was disappointed but probably would not appeal the arbitrator's decision. He said he expected the city staff to determine next week how to proceed.
The firefighters' grievances claimed the city filled a new 40-hour position last September with a firefighter who did not hold a paramedic certification and that the city used the employee to perform overtime work that union members, who work 24-hour shifts, should have performed.
Lindauer overruled the city's contention that it could hire a firefighter with a basic emergency medical technician certificate with the understanding the new employee would obtain paramedic certification within a year.
In his opinion, Lindauer said he "understands the city's position on this issue, but finds that it lacks merit when applied to the unique aspects of the 40-hour position."
He explained that the 40-hour position was incorporated into the 2002-05 contract at the city's request in an effort to help cover long-distance ambulance trips that took regular firefighter-EMTs away from a fire station for up to 10 hours at a time. By adding the position, the city hoped to reduce the need to call back off-duty employees and pay them overtime.
The union contended that the city passed over other firefighters who were paramedics. It asked that the city rescind the job offer to the unqualified applicant and offer the job to the qualified candidate. The union also complained that the city paid the 40-hour worker at a firefighter-paramedic rate when he hadn't attained the certification. The individual still is employed, but has not achieved paramedic status, Wooten said. His one-year trial ends Sept. 1.
Lehman denied the grievances in late September and they were submitted to arbitration.
Although Lindauer ruled in the firefighters' favor he made no order requiring either party to take specific action. Rather, he remanded the case back to the parties to resolve it themselves. He also ruled that the parties would share his fee, which was about $1,800 for each party. Each side also had to pay their own attorneys' fees, Wooten said.