City Firefighters Turn To Arbitrator To Try And Restore Insurance Benefits

By Jeff Neumeyer

February 23, 2011 Updated Feb 23, 2011 at 11:46 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, IN (Indiana's NewsCenter) --- The Fort Wayne Firefighters Union argued Tuesday that a move by the city to take away some of their insurance benefits amounts to a violation of their contract.

The issue does not involve coverage for the firefighters themselves, but for their spouses.

Representatives for the firefighters and Mayor Tom Henry's administration made their respective cases before a Bloomington law professor, who is serving as an independent arbitrator trying to settle this dispute.

Last fall, with budget cutting on the front burner, city officials ordered that firefighters spouses could no longer be covered under the city's health insurance policy, if their own employer provided insurance and paid at least 50% of the premium.

The union contends that directly violates the terms of their contract.

The city and union tried to negotiate some kind of resolution over the past several months, but no deal was accomplished.

The firefighters claim this is a big deal for the union’s rank and file.

President Jeremy Bush/Firefighters Union Local 124: " We want to make sure that our members are treated fairly and we do what's best for the city and the Fort Wayne firefighters. We're not trying to be greedy with this, we just want to make sure that we are represented well and that we are protected and that's what governs us, is our agreements that we have with the City of Fort Wayne."

We’re told more than 550 families are impacted by this issue, when you take into account retirees too.

The mayor’s office declined comment.

People who work for private companies have to contend with changes to their insurance coverage all the time.

It’s a harsh reality with constant price increases in the health insurance industry.

However, the firefighters maintain that to change insurance coverage in the middle of a contract is a different matter altogether.

The arbitrator is expected to make his ruling May 9th.

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