Liberty Township's firefighters union has taken its grievance to arbitration.

Liberty Township's firefighters union has taken its grievance to arbitration.

The arbitration is the union's response to the trustees' denial of grievance that the union filed April 19.

The union said the trustees changed the employee contribution for health insurance premiums before finishing contract negotiations with the union.

The township and the union have been negotiating since October 2009.

The expired contract under which the firefighters are still working calls for monthly health insurance contributions of $15 for single coverage and $25 for all coverage greater than single.

In March, trustees passed a resolution, effective April 1, to change the monthly employee contribution to $25 for single health coverage, $35 for the employee plus one dependent, and $45 for the employee plus two or more dependents.

Trustees said at the time that they needed to make the changes prior to the April 1 renewal date for the health insurance.

"We officially informed the township on May 12 that we were choosing to take the issue to arbitration," said firefighter Ray Friesner, who also serves as vice president of the department's union.

On May 5, trustees denied the grievance that firefighter-paramedic and local union president Brian Niemet filed with the trustees.

"The reason we've chosen to fight that particular fight," Friesner said, "is because there is a policy and procedure in place that needs to be followed and the township has chosen not to follow that. We're in this fight based more on principle as opposed to the money."

Though the contract expired last year, it carries forward until a new contract is agreed upon township administrator Dave Anderson has said.

The contract negotiations are in fact-finding, which is the step preceding arbitration, Friesner said.

With fact-finding, "the township and the firefighters union mutually agree upon a fact finder" and that person looks at facts and makes a recommendation to both sides, Friesner said.

"Our contract consists of 34 articles and we have signed off 31 of those, so we have three articles remaining that are money related," said Friesner. He would not detail the issues that remain to be negotiated.

Township trustees and Anderson would not comment on the negotiations, saying only that they are "ongoing."