Pay dispute leads to firefighters filing lawsuits against the City of St. Charles

ST. CHARLES, MO – The union representing St. Charles firefighters has filed three lawsuits against the city. Representatives of International Association of Firefighters Local 757 say St. Charles has failed to uphold the current contract and now owes firefighters upwards of $300,000.

All three lawsuits have to do with raises and money firefighters say they are owed by the city.

The first two lawsuits are filed on behalf of all union members based on the collective bargaining agreement signed by the city and the union.

The contracts states, “For calendar years 2016 and 2017, employees shall receive an across the board increase, if any, that is equivalent to the average percentage increase received by all city employees in the classified service who are not covered by this agreement.”

In a grievance filed by the union, the union acknowledges members did receive a raise in 2016 but no pay increase was awarded in 2017.

In October 2017, while disputing the lack of pay increase for that year, union representatives said they learned the City gave raises to some city employees in 2016 which were not factored into the calculations when determining the average of all city employees. According to union leadership, had those raises been included in the calculations, the raise for firefighters in 2016 would have been higher.

In a letter to the union, written and signed by Director of Administration Larry Dobrosky, he states, “In 2017, there were no ‘across-the-board’ increases for all City employees as was the case in 2016.” Dobrosky goes on to say employees received a salary increase in 2017 based on merit and as a result of a classification and compensation study.

The way union representatives interpret the contract, firefighters should have received a raise based on the average raise awarded by the city to employees in 2017 regardless of whether it was granted “across-the-board” or to individual employees. The union is asking for back pay for all of its members for the 2016 and 2017 year.

The latest filing alleges two captains did not receive raises they were owed based on the pay grid in the contract. According to union representatives, the two captains were promoted to the position in January of 2015. Per the contract, the date of their promotion became the anniversary date for future pay increases.

In January 2018, the two captains named in the lawsuit reached their three-year anniversary in that rank and submitted a request to payroll to change their pay rate. The request was denied by the city.

St. Charles firefighters are currently working under a contract that was set to expire at the end of 2017. According to union representatives, both sides have agreed to extend the contract and continue working under its terms until a new contract is reached.

The union is asking the city to honor the language in the contract by increasing the two captains' salaries and provide the captains with back pay including overtime. Two more grievances have been filed in line with this violation. If those grievances are not settled, those names will be added to this lawsuit.

Ultimately, all of this back and forth could come at a cost to St. Charles taxpayers.

According to Local 757 President Mark Jones, ten firefighters have left the department to start over at other departments as a direct result of the pay structure in the current contract.

“Changes in that contract have resulted in unprecedented turnover," said Jones. "It is the firefighter’s concern that should this turnover continue, public safety will be jeopardized.”

While the department has been able to fill those vacant positions, union representatives say it takes time and money to train new firefighters.

The union and city are scheduled to meet again Tuesday (Aug. 14) to continue negotiating a new contract.