Can West Covina and its firefighters agree on a new contract?

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WEST COVINA >> The West Covina Firefighters’ Association may soon vote on a contract, after working for two years without one.

The 72-member association has attempted to quietly negotiate a contract with the city through formal negotiations, informal discussions with the city manager, and mediation with a state-appointed mediator without success, association President Matt Jackson said.

“It’s been frustrating that our members have suffered because negotiations have stopped and started over the past two years because of dealing with four different negotiators,” he said. “We get close to a contract, and then have to start over again when a new one comes in.”

Jackson blamed the turnover of the city manager position during the time period for the delay.

Since negotiations started West Covina has had three city managers.

City Manager Chris Freeland said he understands the firefighters’ frustration, which led to a group of about 30 firefighters picketing Tuesday’s City Council meeting, but said he hopes an agreement is close to coming to fruition.

“We presented an agreement (Wednesday) to the association, and we hope their membership will ratify it,” Freeland said.

He declined to give specific numbers of the proposal, but said it included items the association requested in recent meetings.

Jackson, who said the firefighters’ association has not received a negotiated raise in eight years and voluntarily agreed to a 9 percent cut, is not looking for a raise in pay.

The association wants an increase in benefits in parity with what other labor groups have received from the city, he said.

If there is no resolution, the two parties will go before the state Public Employment Relations Board next month for some type of resolution.

There are nine labor groups the city negotiates with, Freeland said.

Talks are still going on between the city and the unions representing the police department, police management and non-sworn police employees.

http://www.sgvtribune.com/government-and-politics/20160608/can-west-covina-and-its-firefighters-agree-on-a-new-contract