City, firefighter talks yet to start

Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — A month after resolving a 5-year labor dispute, the city and the firefighters’ union have yet to go back to the negotiating table.

The city and Watertown Professional Firefighters Association Local 191 agreed on Nov. 13 to avoid further arbitration, ending a contentious fight over the city violating the minimum manning clause in the contract.

Finally getting that out of the way, the city and the union must now start negotiating contracts for the years beyond 2016.

Two weeks ago, the union notified the city that it wanted to schedule two days of negotiations for a new accord, union president Daniel Daugherty said. So far, the city hasn’t responded, he said.

“We’re just waiting to hear,” he said.

City Manager Rick Finn said Monday night that he expects that the city will soon set a date for negotiations.

“We’ve had some discussions about it,” he said.

The main sticking point of the five-year dispute was the minimum manning clause, which requires 15 firefighters on duty at all times.

The city took the matter to the state’s highest court and lost.

Mr. Daugherty said he hopes that the city will take a different tact and will not want to go to arbitration this time.

Mr. Finn will join City Attorney Robert J. Slye and human resources director Matthew Roy on the city negotiating team. He might add one more person to the team, the city manager said.

Terry O’Neil, the Long Island lawyer who represented the city during most of the litigation, is no longer handling the city’s litigation in the Fire Department matters.

The legal expenses associated with the labor dispute accumulated to about $900,000 from the time when Mr. O’Neil’s firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King, PLLC, was hired in 2015.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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