Ogdensburg union contracts: is city headed for bankruptcy, lawsuits, ‘disaster’?

Updated: Oct. 19, 2020 at 4:39 PM EDT
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OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - Mayor Mike Skelly says union contracts could bankrupt the city. Unions and their council allies say it’s just a fear tactic.

Ogdensburg’s city administration says union contracts are bleeding the city dry. Those contracts were okayed by the previous city council just before Skelly and his allies took office.

“And they went ahead - gave unprecedented raises and long-term contracts, which are devastating us now,” said Skelly.

The contracts have terms between 5 and 7 years. That means if unions don’t cooperate, the city administration would have to resort to extraordinary means to change them. It may.

“The city will most likely have to seek some sort of judicial intervention to be able to get relief from those contracts. We simply cannot pay out more money than we take in,” said Stephen Jellie, Ogdensburg city manager.

Bankruptcy is another option, Jellie said.

It’s the firefighters contract where they want changes right now. But that union says the “toxic work environment” the administration has created makes that impossible.

“The good faith that is required for such negotiations does not exist between this administration and this union,” said

Jason Bouchard, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 president.

The 3 council members who are not Skelly’s allies doubt the Skelly administration’s claims. One tells 7 News his plans are a recipe for disaster.

“I think unilateral changes are going to result in nothing but lawsuits...It may even put us into a state of bankruptcy, that these guys are saying we are on the verge of right now – which really we’re not at all,” said Dan Skamperle, Ogdensburg city councillor.

The city council could start dealing with some budget specifics as soon as its next meeting and it may hold special meetings to develop the budget further.

Municipalities across the region are in for a tough budget year due economic losses from the pandemic. But it looks like in Ogdensburg, that process will be even more difficult.

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