Fire department awarded thousands after staffing disagreements

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City pays fire department compensatory damages

MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA)– The city had to pay the fire department thousands of dollars because of disagreements with staffing. The Mattoon Fire Department was awarded thousands of dollars in compensatory damages.

Firefighters say the city informed the department they wanted to cut staffing, so they filed a grievance arbitration in early June of 2017. By contract, they were obligated to have 30 firemen and eight men on duty everyday. The fire department says the city felt they did not have to honor that, so they took legal action.

A final award was confirmed in December 2019. An arbitrator ruled in favor of the union and said the city should increase staffing. The city was ordered to pay the union $9225.24 in lost dues, $19,059.80 in attorney fees, $3,900 in arbitrator fees and $79,000 in compensatory damages. “There was a lot of over time worked during the last two years during this long grienvance process and during that time the guys missed a lot of things they shouldn’t have been missing had the city just hired the employees they should have been hiring the entire time,” said Bart Owen with the Mattoon Fire Department.

Those compensatory damages are split for about 30 employees. Some who have retired or moved on and some current employees.The fire department is still staffed at 22 right now. They are having some difficulty with recruitment and finding employees, but are hoping to find solutions soon.

A statement from City Admistrator Kyle Gill says “The city felt the 79,000 dollars were more of punitive damages than compensatory. We know they did work more, but we did pay them time and a half for hours hours worked over their normal schedules. This was an extra penalty to the city.”

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