Ogdensburg firefighters reject city’s contract offer

WWNY Ogdensburg firefighters reject city’s contract offer

OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - The firefighters union in Ogdensburg has rejected the city’s latest contract offer, saying it was “asking incredibly too much from our union.”

Ogdensburg City Manager Stephen Jellie told 7 News on Wednesday that the city made a “generous proposal” which would “resolve the matter of reducing organizational staffing, prevent the layoff of all firefighter personnel and avoid a lengthy court battle.”

The city budget calls for slashing positions at the department and 5 layoff notices were issued Wednesday.

On Thursday, Jason Bouchard, president of the firefighters union, also would not disclose what the city offered, but said, “What they were asking was, simply put, not acceptable.”

Jellie told 7 News the contract would have kept staff at the current level with raises year-to-year.

He said he’s disappointed in the union’s decision because members ended up choosing their perks over saving personnel.

“It certainly seems to me that they’ve been making their case to everybody that personnel, saving jobs, was the most important thing and here was an opportunity to save all their personnel and they chose to keep their perks instead,” said Jellie.

He said the proposal asked members to give up some perks like incentives for EMS work and end-of-year comp time giveaways.

In addition, eligible firefighters have been offered a retirement incentive. The deadline to accept the offer was Thursday at 4 p.m.

Bouchard said one firefighter has decided to take the deal, which pays $25,000 to retire before the end of the year.

He said the union has repeatedly asked for a deadline extension, but the city has denied it.

Jellie said Thursday that 5 layoff notices have been issued, but 2 more firefighters expressed interest in taking the retirement incentive.

That means it’s possible layoffs at the fire department will only amount to 3.

Thursday night, Ogdensburg City manager Stephen Jellie released this statement:

“The City of Ogdensburg is sincerely disappointed that a deal could not be reached with IAFF Local 1799 to avoid the lay off of 5 dedicated firefighter personnel. We were able to fully withdraw one layoff notice due to the immediate retirement of a Fire Captain, and we temporarily avoided the layoff of another Firefighter due to the indefinite leave of another firefighter. There are two OFD personnel contemplating formal acceptance of the retirement incentive which may provide an opportunity to reinstate two firefighters that will be laid off effective 1 January 2021.

The City of Ogdensburg presented IAFF Local 1799 with a generous offer that would avoid the layoff of all personnel below the total number of 24, and with the accepted retirement of one employee and the possibility of two additional employees retiring in the near future, we would avoid ALL layoffs; yet late this evening we learned this offer was not acceptable to IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard.

IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard have insisted for weeks that they were open to any plan presented by the city that did not include staffing reductions below 24, and after much consideration, study and analysis, the City of Ogdensburg presented a comprehensive settlement offer that would maintain 24 personnel (6 per shift) and provide the significant budgetary reductions necessary to strengthen the city’s fiscal posture; but that plan was not acceptable as stated by President Bouchard, “what they were asking was, simply put, not acceptable.”

After weeks of accusing the City Manager & Fire Chief Stephen Jellie of not working in good faith, placing firefighters and the community at risk and not caring for the dedicated firefighters and their families well being, it is now clear what is most important to President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard - the very lucrative benefits and perks contained in their contract negotiated in haste immediately following the 2019 election of the new city council, and not the personnel that are being laid off effective 1 January 2021. The current contract with IAFF Local 1799 guarantees raises of 2.5% - 3.5% each year for 6 years, provides bonus payments for not using sick leave, provides a stipend for maintaining EMT certification, offers the payment of vacation leave in lieu of use, demands hazard pay for staffing below 6 per shift and will cost the city on average of $131,000 to maintain each position in 2021; the residents of the city cannot afford these costs exorbitant costs one day longer.

The City of Ogdensburg remains committed to finding a collective solution to this matter, but the needs of the residents of the city must come first; no exceptions. We sincerely hope that President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard drop their commitment to “perks over personnel” and join the very bold plan to ensure the survival of the city, while working equally as hard to begin the revival of the city; and bring their members back to work.”

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