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Everett

Firefighters accuse city of violations in contract talks

While squiring developer Steve Wynn around the potential site of a casino in the city, Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Jr. has been taking heat from the firefighters’ union over accusations that the city violated state labor law through its conduct in contract negotiations.

The dispute intensified last Monday when about 150 union members and supporters held informational picketing outside City Hall.

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The picketing came as the state Department of Labor Relations prepares to hold a hearing Dec. 13-14 on seven charges the union has filed.

Kerry Bonner, an investigator from the Department of Labor Relations, examined the union’s allegations and on Oct. 22 found probable cause that the city had committed five violations of state law during negotiations.

Another Department of Labor Relations investigator, Erica Crystal, examined a subsequent set of union allegations and on Tuesday found probable cause that the city had committed two other violations, according to department documents.

The city and the 94-member union, Local 143 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, have been negotiating since June on a contract to replace one that expired at the end of that month.

“This picket is about the total lack of respect the mayor has for Everett firefighters and the state law,” Craig Hardy, the union’s president, said in a prepared statement. “This picket is not about money or any financial proposals the city has offered during current negotiations. Rather, it is about Mayor DeMaria’s tactics during negotiations.”

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“During the negotiation period, my administration has been working diligently and in good faith with representatives of Firefighters Local 143 in the effort to modernize the current firefighter contract,” DeMaria said in a statement responding to the union charges and the picketing. “It is my goal to find an equitable and balanced solution to our shared challenges while maintaining the high level of public safety services to the residents of the city of Everett.

“I am confident that with Local 143 returning to the negotiating table, both sides will be able to achieve their respective goals,” DeMaria added.

Hardy said the union on Aug. 21 filed for arbitration before the state’s Joint Labor Management Committee. He said no arbitration hearings have been scheduled.

Hardy said that on Aug. 23, the city notified the union that it was terminating the current contract. The union questions the legality of that action, and believes there was no need for it.

One of the union allegations for which Bonner found probable cause concerned a comment that Albert Mason, the city’s legal counsel, allegedly made at an Aug. 1 bargaining session. The union said that Hardy told Mason he had attended a meeting with the mayor and his chief of staff on or about July 12 in which they discussed contract negotiations. The union alleges that Mason “advised Hardy that if Hardy had spoken to the mayor or spoke to the mayor in the future, he would file an unfair labor practice charge against the union.”

In another of the incidents, the union alleges that on or about July 11 and July 17, the city advised the union that if it filed for contract mediation with the Joint Labor Management Committee, that “the union would be going to the [Joint Labor Management Committee] without a contract, or words to that effect.”

The union also alleged that at an Aug. 21 bargaining session, the city told the union that if it filed the petition for mediation “the city’s funding authority would not fund, and the mayor would not support, a JLMC award that differed from the city’s current proposal.”

The union contended that in all those cases, the city “interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the free exercise of their rights” under the law, and in its July 11 and 17 comments, the city “has failed to bargain in good faith with the union by threatening to terminate [the contract] if the union filed a petition with the JLMC.”

One of the charges for which Crystal found probable cause concerns a discussion that the union alleges DeMaria had at the Ferry Street Fire Station on or about Oct. 12 with six union members and without any representatives of the bargaining committee present.

The union said that through statements the mayor allegedly made to those union members — including that “the union leadership is unreasonable, especially Hardy” — the city had “interfered with, restrained, and coerced employees in the free exercise of their rights” and had “bypassed the union by dealing directly with unit members over wages,” also in violation of the law.

John Laidler can be reached at laidler@globe.com.

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