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Latest News - April 2014

April 10, 2014
Works board requests police look into union negotiation misconduct
Source: NWI.COM
By: Matt Mikus

The Hammond Board of Public Works and Safety has requested an investigation to see if a new ordinance is considered an unfair labor action between the city of Hammond and Hammond Firefighters Local 556.

The board voted Thursday to ask the Hammond Police Department to look into whether city and union officials continued to negotiate conditions after the contract was signed.

Board member Jeffery Smith abstained from the vote because he is a firefighters union member.

The request follows an ordinance introduced by 6th District Councilman Homero Hinojosa that would restore paid days off for firefighters serving 15 years or longer.

Board President Robert Lendi said continuing negotiations with other city officials after the contract is signed is considered misconduct by the union.

"That's why that clause is in there," Lendi said, "to prevent something like this from happening. Negotiations are expensive on both sides."

Lendi and city administration say restoring the seniority days could cost about $344,000 over the life of the contract.

Hinojosa believes this is a political move, and that clause of the contract doesn't apply.

"I don't think this is a negotiation," Hinojosa said. "I think the firefighters have the right to ask for more, but you have to do it by an ordinance. We're not negotiating a contract, it's just a vote, yes or no."

He added the city and the mayor have the right to reopen contract negotiations at any time.

"Maybe he should, because he might be thinking he could lose the next election by going after the firefighters."

As of Wednesday, Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. had not yet made a decision to seek re-election.

Firefighter's union President Ed Lomeli said the firefighters never had the opportunity to negotiate from the beginning.

"We haven't negotiated with anybody, and that includes the city administration," Lomeli said. "I think the councilman thought this was union busting, and he wanted to stick up for the firefighters."

Lendi said city personnel issues are handled by the internal affairs division of the Police Department.

"They'll just question some people and based on the evidence they gather, they'll come back with a report to us," Lendi said. "Step one is to consider whether the misconduct charge is valid. And then we'll move on to step two, whatever that may be."

Hammond Police Lt. Richard Hoyda said the department had not yet been informed of the board's decision.



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