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Lockport, New York Firefighters Dispute Will Be Settled Through Arbitration

Saturday, December, 5, 2015

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court recently ruled unanimously that the courts should not be responsible for settling disputes between public employee unions and government. This entitles Lockport, New York firefighters to arbitration concerning which officers are eligible for the position of fire chief.


The court’s ruling reversed a lower court decision barring arbitration for a 2014 rule change that added a certain firefighter to the list of people eligible to take the civil service examination for the position of chief.


The city’s labor attorney, in response of the ruling, had no impact on another firefight who was promoted to chief earlier that year after serving as interim chief when the sitting chief retired. Some officials in the city wanted the other firefighter to become chief instead of moving the interim employee automatically into that position. The Fire Board asked the city’s Civil Service Commission to change the eligibility requirements to help the candidate after he came in fifth on the civil service exam, disqualifying him from eligibility. Only the top three are eligible for appointment unless they refuse the position.


The union filed the grievance claiming, “If you want to make a change, you sit down at the table and you negotiate it… The city needs to realize you can’t unilaterally make changes…”


Last year the State Supreme Court granted the city’s request to prevent the union from seeking arbitration on the issue, feeling that an arbitrator should not be able to overtake a ruling made by a Civil Service Commission.