Watertown, firefighters union reach tentative contract agreement

Watertown fire union contract

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - It's a deal six years in the making.

Watertown and the city’s firefighters’ union have struck a tentative contract agreement.

City council member Lisa Ruggiero says the fight could've gone on even longer.

“It was explained to us that, if we did not accept this, that it would be another year before we would probably be in arbitration over this,” she said.

So, what does the tentative deal look like?

City manager Ken Mix says it covers the last four years, a period spanning 2016 to the end of this June.

Mix says it includes a 2.5 percent wage increase to firefighters for each of those years.

“The agreement calls for them to be paid that retroactive pay within 60 days of the ratification of the agreement,” Mix said.  

Mix says the city’s firefighters’ union will also see its health insurance premiums go up.

“It will be the same as what the police contract calls for,” he said. “The premium I think, is about 14 and a half percent.”

The tentative deal doesn't resolve the issue of minimum staffing.

Firefighters want 15 people on every shift, while some city officials want that number lower.

Ruggiero says the issue couldn't have been resolved in this round of negotiations.

“Because that time had already passed, you can’t go back and try to institute a minimum manning clause,” she said, “because everybody already worked those hours, for those four years.”

Mix says this tentative deal doesn't mean the work is done and both sides will have to be back at the table to discuss minimum staffing within 60 days of ratification.

“We’ve got to start negotiating the contract for the current year,” he said, “and both parties have agreed we start talking about minimum manning as a discussion item as part of that, so we’re going to have to get right back into it.”

Ruggiero says the city council could vote on the tentative agreement in next Monday’s meeting and of the vote were to happen, she says she’d vote in favor of accepting the contract.

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