Ogdensburg firefighters reject city’s early retirement offer

Ogdensburg firefighters reject city’s early retirement offer
Ogdensburg Fire Department (Source: WWNY)

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - The union representing Ogdensburg firefighters has rejected the city’s retirement incentive.

Earlier this month, the city, looking to trim the cost of operating the fire department, offered firefighters $20,000 to retire.

The city set a December 18 deadline for firefighters to express interest in the offer.

On Friday, Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 issued a news release saying it rejects the offer.

“The offer was placed upon the table less than three weeks ago. This gave our eligible members very little time to make a decision that will alter the course of their lives going forward,” the union said. “This offer, while claiming to be genuine, is not viewed as such by our Union.”

The union said it repeatedly asked the city to provide the offer in writing and have funds formally approved.

City Manager Stephen Jellie, in a prepared statement, said the union’s leadership has “refused all good faith efforts proposed by the City of Ogdensburg to work collectively on a plan to reduce the overall staffing level of the fire department. In fact, the only visible effort from IAFF Local 1799 was a last minute offer that included a request that we not reduce staffing in trade for reducing excessive overtime caused by their fiscally irresponsible contract, absolving employees of serious disciplinary infractions and releasing the city from an EMT stipend of $1000 per firefighter in addition to their normal salary. "

The following is the full news release from the union:

Local 1799 is responding to the alleged $20,000 retirement incentive offered by the city. This offer is set to expire by an arbitrary, expedited date of 18 December 2020. The offer was placed upon the table less than three weeks ago. This gave our eligible members very little time to make a decision that will alter the course of their lives going forward. Our department has agreed to retirement incentives in previous contracts. However, said agreements have been agreed to, contractually, within collectively binding agreements. Former councils have approved these monies far prior to prepare individuals to make an educated decision. Retirement proposals such as this have never been imposed upon the Union with such immediacy, with such inconsiderate deadlines, more importantly without legitimizing funds.

This offer, while claiming to be genuine, is not viewed as such by our Union. Union President Jason Bouchard has repeatedly asked, Mr. Jellie and the City, in the best interest of eligible members, to provide this purported offer, signed and in writing. Likewise, this offer has been given, but once again, never approved or guaranteed for potentially interested members. Why wouldn’t the council vote to approve funds? Why contingent upon the Financial Restructuring Board?

The City has indicated through all email responses that they will not formally propose, sign, or guarantee the incentives they have proposed. This has been indicated further by the city’s repeated denial to approve and validate this offer, despite the fact they’ve voted to violate our collectively bargained agreement.

Our Union is hereby rejecting the retirement incentive as has been offered. Any such agreement from this city administration as currently offered cannot be taken seriously. This method seems to be posturing by the city to reduce our manning and public safety as soon as possible. We simply do not believe any such incentive is legitimate.

The following is the full statement from Jellie:

The City of Ogdensburg regrets that no fire department personnel opted to take advantage of the $20,000 retirement incentive opportunity offered on 2 December 2020; the deadline for submission was close of business today. To date, President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard have refused all good faith efforts proposed by the City of Ogdensburg to work collectively on a plan to reduce the overall staffing level of the fire department. In fact, the only visible effort from IAFF Local 1799 was a last minute offer that included a request that we not reduce staffing in trade for reducing excessive overtime caused by their fiscally irresponsible contract, absolving employees of serious disciplinary infractions and releasing the city from an EMT stipend of $1000 per firefighter in addition to their normal salary. IAFF Local 1799 is successfully creating a sense of fear among the community with their constant rhetoric about lives being placed at risk if the fire department is reduced in size, we respectfully request they cease this false information campaign. The average cost of each Ogdensburg Firefighter position in 2021 will be $139,000, a price far too high for a city the size of Ogdensburg, where the vast majority of residents make far less, most working at least two jobs. The City of Ogdensburg sincerely hopes IAFF Local 1799 will join our efforts to do what is right for the citizens of Ogdensburg and work collectively for the common good of the entire community as we continue to aggressively take decisive action to ensure the survival of city, while working diligently for the revival of the city.

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