Indiana Judge Refuses To Force City to Arbitrate New Contract

Firefighters in Kokomo, Indiana are without a collective bargaining agreement and without the ability to arbitrate a new one following a ruling by a Howard County Superior Court judge last week.

The Professional Firefighters of Kokomo, IAFF Local 396, filed suit in early December to force the city to arbitrate their interest dispute. The current CBA was set to expire on December 31, 2017 and the union alleged its members would be subject to irreparable harm without a court order compelling the city to arbitrate the dispute.

Judge George Hopkins concluded that the firefighters were unable to show irreparable harm and refused to issue an injunction to compel the city to arbitrate the dispute. He also pointed to the fact that the union missed its time frame to demand arbitration.

The city’s arbitration ordinance, which gives Kokomo Firefighters the right to arbitrate disputes, limits the union’s right to request arbitration to 45 days after negotiations begin. The parties began negotiations on June 7, 2017, but the union did not formally request arbitration until October 6. The union argued that case law allowed the parties to waive the 45-day limit, but Judge Hopkins said Local 396 “did not request arbitration in either a timely manner or in compliance with the ordinance.”

More on the story.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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