Arlington firefighter talks stall

ARLINGTON – Labor talks between Arlington and its firefighters union have stalled, and the union has asked for a state mediator to intervene.

The union’s attorney, Alex Skalbania of Seattle, filed the request with the state Public Employment Relations Commission this week.

The city and the 22-member union had reached a tentative agreement earlier, but the City Council unanimously rejected the new contract without explanation in June.

Since then, city administrator Allen Johnson said he met with union president Greg Koontz a couple times to go over the council’s issues. Johnson would not say what those issues are.

Johnson said he was surprised the union asked for a mediator.

Koontz could not be reached for comment.

Skalbania said he was puzzled why the council pulled away from their deal.

“There’s no reason, from our perspective, to reinvent the wheel,” he said. “We figured it must be time to get an expert neutral person to help us.”

In June, after the council rejected the deal, City Council member Steve Baker said wages were not much of an issue.

At the time, Koontz speculated the city might have issues with an administrative captain position.

In the old contract, which expired Dec. 31, 2004, the administrative captain received a 10 percent salary boost to compensate for additional training duties.

Koontz and Baker said the proposed new contract was similar to the old one.

Skalbania said the next step will be for the commission to assign a mediator to the case. Then both sides will schedule times to renew negotiations.

If mediation fails, the next step would be an arbitrator, who could force the two sides to a deal.

“Hopefully it won’t have to get there,” Skalbania said.

Reporter Scott Morris: 425-339-3292 or

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