Also during the first week of the fall veto session, the Senate Executive Committee advanced legislation (HB 5485) that would add staffing levels, also known as “manning,” to the list of mandatory subjects of collective bargaining for firefighters. If an agreement cannot be reached, the local government and the collective bargaining unit will be subject to binding arbitration.
Opponents stressed that if manning is imposed on a city, and that city gets into a budget squeeze, it could not reduce minimum staffing without the union's agreement. As a result, the bill could force local governments to raise property taxes to pay for increased staffing levels.
Firefighters contend that manning is already contained in many municipal labor agreements across the state (including Chicago) and that this bill would not require, only continue to allow, an arbitrator to award manning during arbitration. Arbitrators can still choose not to award a request to insert manning into a union contract.
Many firefighters argue that understaffing has jeopardized public safety, and the safety of the firefighters, due to municipal budget troubles, which drives the need for the legislation.
On Nov. 20, House Bill 5485 was sent to the Senate for consideration and passed by a 42-11-4 vote after a long debate.