City, fire union to meet again with mediator

Watertown officials are planning to appeal a ruling ordering the city to pay legal fees incurred by WWNY-TV/7 News resulting from a dispute about a report on former City Manager Richard F. Finn. Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — The city and its firefighters’ union will meet with a mediator for a second time after they discussed their negotiations on Monday.

A date of April 28 has been set to meet with mediator Bill Conley. He’s the same mediator who was used the last time the two parties went through mediation.

Mr. Conley thought “there was enough” to get together for a second mediation session, said Daniel Daugherty, president of the Watertown Professional Firefighters Association, Local 191.

“We’re going to go from there, I guess,” he said.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said the two parties met through a Zoom meeting for almost two hours on Monday but declined to comment further about how it went.

Minimum manning, having 15 firefighters on duty at all times, is again the main sticking point.

“We want to keep it,” Mr. Daugherty said. “They want to get rid of it.”

The two sides met in December of last year before jointly agreeing to file for an impasse and move toward mediation.

The city has been insistent the union has to give up the minimum staffing stipulation, contending the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has left the city in dire financial straits.

In August, the city and the bargaining unit agreed on a four-year agreement that covers 2016 through June 30 of this year, and gives firefighters 2.5% raises for each year of the new contract.

A new agreement would cover from July 1 of last year and beyond.

It took six years to approve that contract as both sides fought back and forth during battles in and out of court.

Legal arguments over arbitration regarding the minimum staffing issue made it all the way to the state’s highest court, with the union winning.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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