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Watertown Fire Department on South Massey Street. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The city and the firefighters’ union have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix confirmed firefighters would receive 2.5 percent wage increases in each of the four years of the agreement. 

Members of the Watertown Professional Firefighters Association Local 191 ratified the accord Thursday night, while the City Council will vote on it on Monday night. 

William Conley, director of conciliation with the Public Employment Relation Board in Albany, met with both parties twice in June to help the two sides reach the tentative accord.

Union President Daniel Daugherty and Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith signed the terms of the agreement last week.

“The mediator asked me not to comment on it until after City Council votes on it,” Mr. Daugherty said Thursday.

Mayor Smith also is waiting for the council to consider the agreement before commenting.

The new contract would be for 2016 through the present year and doesn’t deal with the contentious minimum manning issue — whether 15 firefighters should be at work at all times — that has hung up negotiations for years.

That issue was the sticking point that stalled talks during their six-year labor dispute. Legal arguments over arbitration regarding the minimum manning issue made it all the way to the state’s highest court, with the union winning.

The two sides avoided further arbitration on Nov. 23, with the hopes of ending their contentious legal battles.

If the agreement is approved Monday night, the two sides must then go back to the bargaining table to start up negotiations once again for a new contract that goes beyond 2020.

Under the agreement, firefighters will pay an amount for health benefits that is comparable to what members of the police union currently pay.  Police officers pay 14 percent of their premium contributions under their contract that was approved in 2019.

Other details of the firefighters’ agreement will be released Friday when the council agenda packet goes out in the morning.

In January, the election brought Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith and new Councilman Jesse Roshia into office. The mayor has been a longtime critic of the union and minimum manning. Mr. Roshia, who’s also been a critic of the fire department, joined the city’s bargaining team at the start of the mediation process.

 

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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