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Yonkers, New York Firefighters Enter Workplace Arbitration

Thursday, January, 10, 2013

Following a dispute that began in the middle of 2012 regarding lowering minimum staffing levels to help the city maintain its budget, the Yonkers firefighters union has decided to finally bring their case before an arbitrator.  After closed-door talks between both sides, an agreement was reached for a hearing date of February 1, 2013. 

The root of the problem is a city-wide plan to cut the city’s spending and lower minimum staffing levels of firefighters from 57 to 48.  In addition to other expert testimonies, retired Fire Commissioner Anthony Pagano is providing testimony during the talks, and has previously played a significant role in dealing with issues related to the Yonkers Fire Department’s staffing regulations. 

According to a statement from the president of the Firefighters Union, Barry McGoey, “We hope the arbitrator keeps an open mind and makes an appropriate decision once all the testimony and evidence has been presented.”

The new plans for an arbitration hearing comes fresh on the heels of a former plan to do the same back in October, although that hearing was called off after both sides agreed to a good-will effort in dealing with the dispute through regular contract negotiations.  However, the negotiators in those contract talks were unable to agree on issues such as wages and sick leave, forcing both sides to take their dispute to a workplace arbitrator to resolve the matter. 

While Mayor Mike Spano insists that the lower minimum staffing requirement is necessary to confront the Fire Department’s overtime costs, costing the city approximately $7 million per year, the Firefighters Union claims that such cuts would threaten public safety.  The union also contends that the Mayor does not have the authority to make changes to their contract.  However, Yonkers is one of many cities across the country dealing with the fallout of required budgetary cuts, and many are being forced to take their disputes to arbitration to be settled by a neutral, third party.