City Council gets advice on labor negotiations

Richmond City Council received clarification and advice from Ivan Schraeder, labor relations attorney and expert in collective bargaining, about the Richmond Fire Department’s union at Tuesday’s meeting. The firefighters voted to join Blue Springs Local 3133 in May.
Schraeder said he told the former council in March not to fight the bargaining process. That meeting was held in closed session.
“At that time, I told them it’s better spending money on the contract, on the people and treasury – not the organizational outcome,” he said. “Firefighters are a different breed of people. When the firefighter suggests bargaining, don’t spend a lot of money fighting it. He would be the one benefiting.”
Schraeder estimated the legal cost of $4,000 to $5,000 to attempt to block firefighters from joining a union and most times, those attempts would be unsuccessful.
Instead, Schraeder told the council to focus on the collective bargaining process.
“Collective bargaining is a significant challenge,” he said. “They think they’re always getting a raise every year. The bottom line – net sum gain of $40,000 – is where do you want to spend your money. Your sales tax is your general revenue. If it’s not flat, it’s declining. In negotiations, people expect to get more. With the economy, it’s not going to happen. Your two major categories are payroll and insurance, and the next category is off the scale. You have to drive [the point] what you have available to spend – or not. ”
Schraeder who has written a manual on collective bargaining for the Missouri Municipal League, advised the council to watch for unseen costs, such as equipment, quality of vehicles and staffing on shifts in negotiations. Schraeder warned that the city administrator and fire chief not give away their ability to manage the department.
He also told council to become well versed in labor negotiations and seek legal help, if needed.
“What’s good for the firefighter in Kansas City and St. Joe is good here. There’s little deviation from the party line. They’ll be getting outside help, talented help,” Schraeder said.
In other business:
• City Attorney Brian Hall attended Tuesday’s council meeting to clarify the use of the half-cent transportation sales tax. The ballot measure, which passed in 2001 and 2006, asked Richmond voters for a sales tax “for transportation purposes.” At issue is one-third of the tax is used for stormwater projects. City Councilwoman Terrie Stanley asked if this was appropriate since stormwater usage was not indicated on the ballot.
Hall said the ordinance covers the breakdown of the tax usage and felt it was proper. Hall said that stormwater is a major part of street work.
• The council voted 8-0 to approve a waiver on the fireworks ordinance for the Richmond Chamber and Ray County Fair Board’s “American Celebration” fireworks show on July 10. The ordinance normally limits fireworks displays from July 3 to 5.
• The council voted 8-0 to allow Ray County Historical Society to place a marker at W. Main and College – the former site of a hotel where Alexander Doniphan lived and died. Jim Carter of the museum said the marker and its upkeep would be no cost to the city.

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