Firefighters Union Files Grievances Against Watertown

Firefighters Union Files Grievances Against Watertown

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Grievances have been filed against Watertown after the city's move to break its contract with the union to save money.

Plus, we've learned the city will save even more money in legal bills.

The fire department was given a directive Wednesday to break its minimum staffing rule when a firefighter calls in sick.

Right now the minimum is 15, but the city's order states if 2 firefighters call in sick, replacements can not be called in and be paid overtime.

So that'll bring the minimum staffing number down to 13.

If more than 2 firefighters call in sick, the department can bring in others on OT.

But bringing the number down to 13, that's where the city breaks the contract and why the union filed grievances Thursday.

In response, the fire department will not man its heavy rescue truck.

City leaders, City Manager Sharon Addison and Mayor Joe Butler, tell 7 News, the city expected a grievance, but they had no choice - that the city needs to be able to control its costs and this move will save on overtime.

In fact, they believe it could save the city a quarter of its overtime cost in the department, citing that last month, 28 percent of the fire department's overtime costs were generated by firefighters calling in sick.

Last fiscal year, overtime for the fire department reached $650,000.

The union says OT racks up because they don't have enough firefighters.

If you are wondering if the city will rack up more legal costs because of these latest grievances, Mayor Butler tells 7 News the city's downstate legal team won't charge Watertown anything extra for the specific legal fight over breaking the contract.

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