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Labor board: City, firefighters must negotiate over training requirement

Concord can require its paramedics to be trained in an advanced technique, but it must negotiate with the firefighters’ union about the affect of the requirement on the union contract, the state’s labor relations board ruled this month.

The union that represents Concord firefighters filed an unfair labor practice complaint over the requirement with the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board last year. The Concord Fire Fighters Association argued that training in rapid sequence intubation, or RSI, should not be required without first negotiating with the union, but the city argued that requiring RSI training falls under its right to management.

With rapid sequence intubation, a paralyzing agent stops a patient’s ability to breathe before a paramedic inserts a breathing tube into the patient’s throat.

In a legal document submitted to the labor relations board, Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik wrote that the city has required paramedics to be trained and credentialed in RSI since 2001, when the procedure was introduced by the state. The union disagreed; union attorney John Krupski said paramedics have received RSI training for many years, but the city did not mandate it until July 2011.

The labor relations board agreed with the union that “until mid-2011 paramedic participation in RSI training and certification was strongly encouraged but was not mandatory,” according to its decision, dated Nov. 13.

The city can require the training but is obligated to negotiate with the union that RSI training could have an affect on the union contract, according to the board’s decision. The employee relations board suggested the city and union negotiate a number of issues: where, when and how often the training will be held; the number of opportunities a paramedic will have to earn the credentials; and what support the city will provide to help them master and use the skill.

“Wages, compensation and other benefits are also affected, as paramedics are now being required to undergo training and certification to obtain a specialized skill related to the provision of emergency medical services beyond what is necessary for an EMT-Paramedic licensure under applicable state law and regulations,” the labor relations board wrote in its decision.

Krupski said the union is happy with the decision and called it “a very pragmatic approach.”

“So they can basically say, ‘We’d like to have the RSI, and you have to sit down and negotiate what that means,’ ” he said.

“Quite frankly, that was all the union was looking for. The union wants to provide RSI to the community. . . . The problem is the city wouldn’t even talk to us.”

Pacik said the city’s legal department is considering its options: either negotiate or appeal the decision.

“The city is pleased with the decision to the extent that it confirms that we have the management right to require paramedics to be trained to perform RSI, which is a life-saving procedure,” Pacik said last week. “But the city does recognize that the board’s decision also requires impact bargaining and we are taking that portion of the decision under advisement and are considering our options.”

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