First responders picket in front of Louisville Metro Hall - WDRB 41 Louisville News

First responders picket in front of Louisville Metro Hall

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB Fox 41)---Battling some rain, EMS workers and Metrosafe dispatchers didn't let it keep them from a bigger issue: a lack of a contract.

"One of the platforms that the Mayor negotiated on was that we would no longer have prolonged contract negotiations with labor unions, when in fact it's almost over 19 months now since we've gotten this contract ratified," says Justin Scharrer with Teamsters Local Union 783.

In December, Mayor Greg Fischer told WDRB that he ordered a halt on contract talks with every agency until the overtime issue is resolved.

The Mayor expects 23 million dollars this year in overtime, and wants to now change existing contracts to save money.

"If you called 911, and someone doesn't answer the phone, how would you feel about that? You have to pay overtime, and the positions have to be filled- there's no questions asked," says Sandra Chesser, a dispatcher for MetroSafe.

"There's a lot of issues with overtime and expenses that the Metro government's incurring. We're willing to sit down and work with them and help alleviate those, but not in the process of neglecting the people we have here," says Todd Thomason with Teamsters Local Union 783.

This is the first time in the last 19 months that first responders say they have picketed because of a lack of a contract. They say it may not be the last time.

"We don't want to take this to mediation, so we're asking for your support," Lane Morris,  who works for Louisville Metro EMS, told the Metro Council members.

"I've been on the last three negotiating teams. We've never had as long of time negotiating a contract as we have now," says Jeff Cundiff, a paramedic for Louisville Metro EMS.  

The Mayor must ultimately approve a contract before council members get a say in the matter.

"19 months is very long to go without a contract. I would just encourage the city to negotiate in good faith, and the Teamsters to negotiate in good faith and try to reach an agreement," says Councilman David James, who represents District 6.

We're told MetroSafe dispatchers, EMS, and police are all working under expired contracts at the moment.

Union leaders will meet with Mayor Fischer next Thursday to talk about cutting costs.

The Mayor was not available for an interview but his spokesman says they are continuing to work with union leaders.

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