Firefighters are considering filing a civil suit to get their raise.

AUBURN -While city councilors discussed the Auburn Police union contract behind closed doors, the officers made themselves comfortable across the parking lot.

About 20 Auburn officers, members of the union, set up a canopy in a city parking lot across the train tracks from the Auburn City building. And while councilors met in executive session Monday night, they grilled some hot dogs and drank sodas.

“We’re not satisfied with the answers we’re getting,” Union President Chad Syphers said. “So we’re just going to keep up the pressure. They think we’re going away, but we’re not.”

The city is negotiating contracts with the police and public works unions. Both contracts expired June 30.

Assistant City Manager Mark Adams met with police union leaders for several hours on July 25 but couldn’t reach a deal. Monday, he discussed those negotiations with councilors in executive sessions before and after the regular council meeting.

Adams said he’s scheduled to meet with the Public Works union next week. He does not have a meeting scheduled with police negotiators, however.

“My schedule is open,” Adams said. “Their schedule determines when we meet.”

Union leaders say a proposed increase in monthly health insurance premiums is the biggest sticking point. Those increased costs, coupled with no cost-of-living wage increases for most city employees, would mean cuts in take-home pay.

Police officers have started growing facial hair in protest of the city’s offer. Beards and mustaches are frowned upon, according to department policy.

Syphers said Monday’s cookout was practice for tonight. Union members will be on hand at Festival Plaza for National Night Out from 6 to 9 p.m. The event, which features music, dancing and a parade, is designed to promote police work to the public.

“We’ll be there to answer some questions and tell people what’s really going on,” Syphers said.

Fire grievance

Meanwhile, members of the Auburn firefighters union are considering more formidable action to have their contract enforced. Mike Minkowski, vice president of International Association of Firefighters Local 797, said the union is considering filing a civil suit to get its 2 percent pay raise.

“But we’re following the procedure, doing what we have to do,” Minkowski said. “It’s up to the city manager now.”

The city and the union settled their contract negotiations in February, agreeing to a 2 percent pay raise set to begin July 1. The city reopened the contract on July 1, however, and firefighters didn’t get their raise.

The union filed a complaint with the Maine Labor Relations Board and a grievance with the city on Friday. City Manager Pat Finnigan said she is still preparing her responses.

Marc Ayotte, executive director of the labor relations board, said Finnigan has until Aug. 12 to file her response.

“It would go to the labor board for adjudication then, assuming it makes it that far,” Ayotte said. “There are all kinds of ways they could settle this themselves, prior to litigation.”


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