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Firefighters officially granted right to collective bargaining

The Mayor signed off on the Firefighter’s Mediation Act on June 30, officially granting Athens firefighters the right to collective bargaining.

The act allows Athens firefighters to bargain for better wages, working conditions and more.

Emily Thompson, the president of the local chapter of the International Association of Fire Fighters, says that gaining a seat at the table has a few benefits.

“Just by the commission voting yes, our morale boosted overnight, also that helps enhance our ability to recruit because you have happy firefighters — they’re gonna be your best recruitment tool,” Thompson said.

Jeremy Williams, the local’s former president, says the act will streamline communication between firefighters and the city.

“Right now we’re kind of a shielded entity, there’s a 3, 5, 6, 10-step process, but now we can go directly to the decision-makers and say this is what we need to protect, this is what we need to perform,” Williams said.

Mayor Kelly Girtz initially vetoed the proposal when it came up for a vote last December. Now, he says he is hopeful that the act will allow the city to support firefighters.

“I’m eager for the road ahead, we want to make sure we’re the safest and best-prepared community possible, and that means making sure employees are supported with all the things they need, both financially and in terms of materials and tools,” Girtz said.

Athens joins Atlanta and South Fulton County as one of the only Georgia fire departments with collective bargaining agreements.

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