Dayton fire union settles with city on COVID testing, withdraws complaint

Kraig Robinson, president of Dayton Fire Fighters, Local 136, left, and Deric McDonald, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Local 44, spoke to the media Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, to address what they called a looming crisis Involving the city’s vaccine rules for workers. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

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Kraig Robinson, president of Dayton Fire Fighters, Local 136, left, and Deric McDonald, vice president of Fraternal Order of Police Local 44, spoke to the media Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, to address what they called a looming crisis Involving the city’s vaccine rules for workers. MARSHALL GORBY\STAFF

Dayton’s fire union has withdrawn an unfair labor practice complaint and a grievance after reaching a settlement agreement with the city about its COVID testing policy.

City officials said the police union rejected a settlement proposal, and an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the building and construction trades union was dismissed.

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One person is custody in connection to a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street of Dayton on Monday morning. Two people jumped out of the window of the burning home. Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said that the fire is believed to be arson. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

One person is custody in connection to a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street of Dayton on Monday morning. Two people jumped out of the window of the burning home. Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said that the fire is believed to be arson. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

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One person is custody in connection to a house fire in the 2600 block of East Second Street of Dayton on Monday morning. Two people jumped out of the window of the burning home. Dayton Fire Department Chief Jeff Lykins said that the fire is believed to be arson. MARSHALL GORBY/STAFF

Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein said about 32 city employees tested positive for COVID last month, and more than half discovered they had the virus through workplace testing protocols.

“We are at the city of Dayton continuing to experience elevated levels of COVID-positive employees, and we remain concerned with the gathering season now being upon us,” she said.

Starting in early November, city employees have been required to submit to weekly workplace coronavirus testing if they are unvaccinated or if they have declined to share their vaccination status with the city’s HR department.

In response to the new policy, the city’s four unions filed unfair labor practice complaints with the State Employment Relations Board, alleging the testing requirement violates their collective bargaining agreements.

The unions claimed the policy changes the terms and conditions of their members’ employment, which must be negotiated.

City leaders maintain that the policy does not require union approval because it is a workplace safety measure.

The first complaint to the employment relations board was filed by the building and construction trades union, and that has been dismissed due to a lack of probable cause that the policy violated the law, said Joe Parlette, Dayton’s deputy city manager.

Parlette said he expects the complaints filed by the other unions also will be dismissed, because they made the same claims.

The Dayton Daily News reached out to union leaders for comment, but did not receive any responses by late Friday afternoon.

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Dayton's Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette in March 2019. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

Dayton's Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette in March 2019. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

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Dayton's Deputy City Manager Joe Parlette in March 2019. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

The city and the Dayton Fire Fighters Local 136 reached a settlement for a separate testing policy, Parlette said. And as part of that settlement, the union agreed to withdraw its unfair labor practice complaint and grievance.

Firefighters who are unvaccinated or do not disclose their status will be required to undergo COVID testing two times per week, said Ken Couch, Dayton’s HR director.

Most unvaccinated employees are tested once per week, but public safety forces have higher exposure risk, Couch said.

Under the separate policy, unvaccinated members of the fire union who agree to testing will be provided with emergency paid leave if they contract the virus or must be quarantined due to exposure, Couch said.

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A man climbed down a Dayton Fire Department ladder after he had been on the roof of a Superior Avenue house for about five hours. Dayton police said the man fled into a home and eventually got on the roof after police arrived to take him into custody on felony warrants out of Minnesota. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

A man climbed down a Dayton Fire Department ladder after he had been on the roof of a Superior Avenue house for about five hours. Dayton police said the man fled into a home and eventually got on the roof after police arrived to take him into custody on felony warrants out of Minnesota. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

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A man climbed down a Dayton Fire Department ladder after he had been on the roof of a Superior Avenue house for about five hours. Dayton police said the man fled into a home and eventually got on the roof after police arrived to take him into custody on felony warrants out of Minnesota. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: Jim Noelker

Credit: Jim Noelker

Unvaccinated employees and workers who do not disclose their status who get COVID have to use their own leave, he said.

Union-represented fire department employees will be eligible for up to 80 or 96 hours of paid COVID emergency leave, according to the agreement with the union.

City officials said the Dayton police union rejected a settlement agreement that mirrors the fire union’s.

About 32 city employees tested positive for COVID in November, which was one fewer positive case than October, city officials said.

About 36 employees tested positive in September, and 25 tested positive in August.

Dickstein said she remains concerned about the virus spreading, especially with the holidays and winter months coming up when people retreat indoors.

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