WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The City of Watertown and its firefighters can’t agree on how many firefighters must be on duty at all times.
So after another day of contract negotiations Thursday, they decided to do what many warring couples do - bring in an outsider.
The city and firefighters will now move to “mediation,” in which a neutral third party attempts to broker a solution both sides can live with.
It won’t be easy.
“We’re all frustrated. I don’t think anybody, anywhere is real happy with the deadlock that we have,” said Watertown fire chief Matt Timerman Thursday.
“It’s disappointing that it’s going there, but mediation - having a third party there- that can often help.”
Firefighters union president Dan Daugherty said Thursday that the number of firefighters on duty, what’s called “minimum manning,” remains the key issue.
Firefighters want to continue the long-standing arrangement under which no fewer than 15 firefighters must be on duty at all times. They say it’s a matter of safety, for both the public and firefighters.
City officials argue Watertown can’t afford that many firefighters, and public safety isn’t at risk.
Mediation will likely start in February or March. Meantime, firefighters will work under the terms of a contract which expired in late June.
“Both sides feel strongly in their position and as long as we continue to remain cordial and have discussions, even if it takes longer than any of us want, at least we’re moving in the right direction,” Timerman said.
7 News reached out to all members of the city council including mayor Jeff Smith, who said he’ll comment after he’s briefed by city manager Ken MIx at next Monday’s council meeting.
Statement from Firefighters Union Local 191
Local 191 is disappointed that after so many years of contentious labor relations we are still unable to come to a mutually acceptable contract through the negotiation process.
However, our hope is that we are able to work through the process, without any further legal distractions, and work towards repairing the relationship between both parties.
In the end our goal is that a deal is struck that maintains the high level of public service, which the citizens of Watertown have come to expect, while also maintaining the safety of the members of Local 191.