WATERTOWN — City firefighters will receive nearly $1.4 million in back pay connected to the longtime contract dispute with the city.
City Manager Kenneth A. Mix said Thursday the $1,396,559 payout for the retro pay, social security and retirement will be “just shy of $1.4 million.”
The payouts — that went out on Thursday — will bring the city current to the contract from July 2016 through June 30 of this year. In all, 84 checks are going out to firefighters and retirees, the city manager said.
Firefighters are receiving 2.5% raises for each year of the new contract after the city and Watertown Professional Firefighters Association Local 191 agreed to a new contract in August.
They were required to receive the retroactive pay for the past four years within 60 days after the accord was ratified.
In August 2019, union members received an additional nearly $1 million in back pay for the years of 2014 to 2016.
“That’s about $2.5 million total,” said Daniel Daugherty, president of firefighters’ union.
The city and the firefighters’ union sat down for 90 minutes on Thursday to talk about the main sticking point that stalled their contract dispute for six years.
The two sides presented their views on minimum manning, the requirement that 15 firefighters must be on duty at all times.
Getting together to talk about minimum manning was stipulated in the four-year agreement the two sides approved in August.
According to that agreement, they had 60 days to talk about minimum manning one more time before they go back to the negotiating table to iron out a new pact. The first meeting on the new pact is scheduled for Oct. 29.
During the meeting on Thursday, Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith said the city laid out the city’s dim financial picture, mainly caused by the coronavirus. The city also cannot afford minimum manning, he said.
“It’s not sustainable, both in short-term and the long-term,” he said.
Calling it “another expense,” Mayor Smith said he was aware the back pay was going to be paid, but didn’t know the exact amount.
Mr. Daugherty said Thursday’s discussion had to take place so the two sides could focus on getting back to the negotiations table.
“We had an in-depth discussion regarding both parties concerns when it comes to minimum manning. However, as this was not a negotiation session, there was no outcome on the future of minimum manning in the city of Watertown. Presumably this issue will be addressed further at the end of the month,” Mr. Daugherty said in a statement.
During the contract dispute, the city tried to get rid of the stipulation, contending the city should decide staffing issues. The union has argued minimum manning is a safety issue for firefighters and the public.
The union will be represented during the next round of negotiations by Mr. Daugherty, union officers Mark Jones, Michael Kellogg and Andrew Naklick and trustees Troy Chismore, Matt Carpenter and Chris St. Joseph.
The city’s negotiating team consists of Mr. Mix, city attorney Robert J. Slye, Human Resources Director Matthew Roy, Mayor Smith and Councilwoman Sarah V. Compo.