OGDENSBURG – An attorney for the Ogdensburg Fire Brigade Union said the city’s proposed budget to eliminate 10 jobs in the department will lead to expensive lawsuits.
Nathaniel G. Lambright, managing partner at Blitman & King, Syracuse, said the council’s proposed budget would severely affect public safety and endanger the health and safety of firefighters.
Mr Lambright said, should the city of fewer than six members do shift work, “which the proposed layoffs would necessarily require,” the city will have to pay a risk under the current contract.
The contract stipulates that “the total number of employees in negotiation units between members aged 28 and 24 may not be reduced for budgetary reasons or due to the elimination of positions, but only when the employee retires in accordance with the Civil Service Act occurs or is lawfully removed “. Mr Lambright wrote in an email on Wednesday.
“I carefully crafted these clauses after my experience of successfully representing the Watertown Professional Firefighters Association, Local 191, in its lengthy litigation against the city of Watertown,” wrote Lambright. “After losing litigation after litigation in a similar attack on these firefighters and spending well over a million dollars in legal fees on a similar attack, the City of Watertown eventually paid the Local 191 firefighters more than $ 130,000 in reimbursement for the violation of their minimum staffing clause. “
City administrator Stephen P. Jellie said he wanted to negotiate with the fire service union.
“It is unfortunate that the fire union lawyer is already talking about lawsuits instead of facilitating collective bargaining between the parties. The city has asked several times to consider this matter, ”Jellie wrote in an email on Wednesday. “… the union continues to reject it. It would have been extremely beneficial if the fire attorney had taken the time during the contract negotiations last fall to better understand the city’s financial position and the heavy burden on city taxpayers with unaffordable personal clauses for job security, risk-paying incentives and salaries understand and take into account. Performance gains that will exceed sales over the same period. “
Mr Lambright said the contract was binding and clear.
“Ultimately, the Union will not stand idly against the Council’s ruthless disregard for the law and public safety,” he wrote. “Should the city of Ogdensburg decide to violate the minimum staffing clause by reducing the number of members of the negotiating unit, we will take measures of the city both in court and before the Public Employment Relations Board as well as in the context of complaint and arbitration proceedings vigorously challenge.
Mr Jellie said the city couldn’t afford the contract with the firefighters.
“Residents and entrepreneurs of the city of Ogdensburg can no longer afford the burden of the highest tax rates in the north of the country. It is just irresponsible to keep asking them to pay more, and it is disheartening that the fire union fails to see that citizens need a break from paying high taxes, ”Jellie said.
Mr Lambright said Ogdensburg’s move was unprecedented.
“I can assure you that I have not seen any other community attacking public safety workers in the way the council is suggesting during this pandemic,” wrote Lambright.
Mr Jellie said he hoped there was still a chance to negotiate with the union.
“It is my sincere hope that the firefighter’s union attorney and financial expert will recognize that the survival of the city of Ogdensburg depends on the ability to cut taxes, increase tax revenues outside of property, and reinvent local government that drives economic growth and development supported. ” he said.
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