Firefighters Win in Arbitration

Firefighters' grievance given aribtrator's blessing

In just the latest in a series of blows to the Austin Fire Department, on Tuesday an arbitrator ruled in favor of the Austin Firefighters Association in their grievance against the department filed last December. In that grievance, Association Presid­ent Bob Nicks claimed that AFD's 2011 entry-level cadet-hiring process violated the union's collective-bargaining agreement by sacrificing validity for the sake of increasing ethnic diversity. Under the terms of the decision, the cognitive ability and behavioral portions of the test will no longer be pass/fail but will instead be an equal, graded portion of the scoring matrix. This means retesting won't be necessary; instead, the city's Human Resources Department will just have to reorder the list of applicants to account for the new scoring system. In an email sent yesterday to AFA members announcing the decision, Nicks wrote: "In light of the arbitrator's ruling our goals have not changed; we still want only to ensure a legitimate, highly valid, hiring process that selects highly qualified candidates that would be fair to all. A process that recruits hiring classes that are diverse and reflective of the Austin community but is not achieved at the sacrifice of selecting highly qualified candidates."

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