OGDENSBURG — One week has passed since the city extended a second and final contract offer to its fire union, with no word yet from the union.
The first contract prompted a swift and blistering rejection letter from union members almost immediately, which union President Jason T. Bouchard later shared with media, but the second offer has garnered radio silence.
In an attempt to nudge the union, City Manager and Fire Chief Stephen P. Jellie has set an expiration date for the final contract offer — Sunday at 4 p.m.
The expiration date, Mr. Jellie said via text message Saturday night, has been set because he and other city officials do not believe the union is taking the second contract offer “seriously,” adding “they are not sincerely interested in returning their personnel to work if it means losing the lucrative list of unsustainable perks they received in addition to the average cost of $131,000 per firefighter.”
In an email to media Saturday night, Mr. Jellie said the offer will be withdrawn if the city does not receive an acceptance of the contract offer, or a counter offer “that will signify (the union’s) first attempt to work collectively.”
“If IAFF Local 1799 rejects the second offer made by the city, or fails to respond all together, their actions will speak volumes and their attempt to generate fear and anxiety will fail,” Mr. Jellie wrote.
Mr. Jellie said last week that, like the first contract offer, the contents of the second offer will remain confidential “until the parties accept or reject the offer entirely.” The first contract offer was said to remain confidential as well, but after the union’s rejection letter for the first contract was shared publicly, Mr. Jellie released all 16 items included in the rejected contract offer.
Mr. Bouchard said Friday that the union would continue to think the contract offer over through the weekend.
Mr. Bouchard did not respond to request for comment as of the time of this report.
The city and its fire union have been at odds for more than two months after the city introduced and passed its 2021 budget, which included the elimination of seven firefighter positions.
When the budget was passed on Dec. 9, the city had 27 firefighters, but factoring in the seven job cuts, 20 firefighters were to remain, dipping below the 24-person minimum required by the city and union’s minimum staffing agreement.
On Dec. 18, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters, Local 1799, filed suit in state Supreme Court in St. Lawrence County against the city in order to temporarily halt city officials from reducing the size of the fire department staff. Ten days later, Judge Mary M. Farley denied the preliminary injunction.
Last month, five layoff notices were issued as, at the time, one fire captain had chosen to accept the city’s $25,000 retirement incentive, and a sixth firefighter remains out on leave for an unspecified injury. The layoffs took effect Jan. 1.
It was revealed during the case’s oral arguments Friday that two more firefighters have opted to retire while a third is under “disciplinary review.”
“It continues to be the sincere intent of the City of Ogdensburg to settle this matter and focus our efforts on the survival of the city, while working equally as hard to ensure the revival of the city,” Mr. Jellie wrote. “We urge IAFF Local 1799 President Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard to join us.”