Binding Arbitration Bill To Be Discussed Next Week By The County Council

It follows approval of a charter amendment in 2018.


Frederick, Md (KM). :A bill allowing for binding arbitration between Frederick County and its career fire fighters is expected to go before the County Council next Tuesday. “This bill amends our current county code on collective bargaining to reflect the changes put forth in the charter amendment,”: says Councilwoman Jessica Fitzwater, whose sponsoring the legislation.

The measure follows voter approval of a charter amendment in November, 2018, which would allow the county and its fire fighters union to seek binding arbitration if negotiations between the two are deadlocked. It also places working conditions on the bargaining table during negotiations on a new memorandum of understanding, or agreement,  between the two sides.

The legislation was drafted by  a work group formed last summer.

“It is in line with similar bills in Montgomery and Howard Counties that were supported by the fire fighter unions there,” says Fitzwater. “And it should help us be more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions in terms of recruitment and retention.”

She also says it gives the career fire fighters’  union a greater  voice in negotiations with the county. “They gain the authority to negotiate working conditions, which was one of the main goals of the charter amendment. It better defines terms like ‘collective bargaining’ and ‘impasse’ in our current code. And it redefines employee to clarify those that are sworn employees,”: Fitzwater says.

“This bill balances the legitimate needs of our public safety workers with the Council’s obligation to protect county taxpayers,” she says.

Binding arbitration would only be used if the county and the career fire fighters union reach an impasse in labor negotiations. “Should arbitration occur, it requires the arbitrator to look at a list of factors that include the fiscal health of the county and mandated spending; and it moves the timetable for negotiations forward quite a bit to insure a focused process that allows both parties to operate within the county’s budget process and budget deadlines,” Fitzwater says.

She made her presentation about the binding arbitration bill during a public information briefing on Tuesday.


By Kevin McManus