City and Firefighters Union Likely Headed to Arbitration
Following a recent nine hour mediation session, the city of Watertown and the Watertown Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191 are likely headed to arbitration. According to the president of the firefighter’s union, the city refuses to budget on demands, and has threatened that it will go to court in an effort to settle the contract negotiations.
The attorney for the union stated that arbitration cannot be far off. The city has already notified the union that there was more to negotiate before a contract could be reached. The city also told the union there were plans in place to remove the department’s deputy chief, training chief, and nine captains, and has expressed displeasure in the amount of overtime firefighters are receiving. According to the city, there are too many officers and firefighters paid too much. The city believes the department does not need 15 firefighters working at a time and would like to make a reduction in the staff, eliminating the 15 firefighter minimal man stipulation. There are currently vacancies in the department that have been in place for approximately four years.
The union believes the city’s cuts would hurt fire service coverage and “eviscerate the fire department.” The union is also concerned that the city’s attorney is the only one doing any talking and claims Watertown’s mayor has been silent about the negotiations. There is still a second mediation sessions scheduled for mid-May, but many are discouraged and assume it will be a waste of time, even with the best possible mediator helping with the proceedings.