OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - On Sunday, Ogdensburg City manager Stephen Jellie announced another contract deal is being proposed to the city’s fire union, in an effort that could reverse layoffs inside the fire department.
In a press release, Jellie characterized the offer as “very generous,” as he did the last contract offer the city floated the union on December 30th. A day later, the union rejected the first offer, with union president Jason Bouchard calling it “completely unrealistic.” What followed was a back and forth between the city manager and the fire union- Jellie said the union chose to keep some of its perks over saving jobs, while the union said the deal lowered minimum manning, and changed shift structure and officer structure.
As for this latest deal, Jellie tells 7 News details will remain confidential while union members consider it.
“I don’t have any idea what their mindset will be,” Jellie said. “I really hope their mindset is what’s best for the city and bringing their members and employees back to work.”
The city’s budget calls for the elimination of seven positions in the fire department. To reduce layoffs, the city has offered a $25,000 retirement bonus for eligible union members. As of Sunday, Jellie tells 7 News layoffs stand at five. One member has taken the incentive, another layoff has been temporarily held because the worker is out with a long-term injury.
Jellie says these contract offers are meant to address an “irresponsible and unsustainable contract that was agreed to in the final days of a previous administration.” City lawmakers signed off on a six-year contract with the fire union in 2019.
In a statement, Jellie wrote, “For the past 6 months, city management attempted on multiple occasions to work collectively with President Jason Bouchard and Secretary Ronald Bouchard on a plan to reduce the overall size of the fire department and reign in the significantly high cost of employing personnel. $131,000 average cost per firefighter, with additional benefits and perks on top of that, is a price far too high for residents and taxpayers to afford in these challenging times.”
Early last month, Bouchard indicated the union had no interest in renegotiating a deal, telling 7 News, “They’re going to have to deal with the fact that we have a contract. And whether or not they agree to how it came about, it was bargained in good faith and we are just simply trying to honor what we signed our names to.”
On Sunday, Bouchard said he was made aware of the proposal after 7 News had reached out for comment.
“...we find it inappropriate and improper to negotiate through the media, as the city manager continues to do,” Bouchard wrote in a comment to 7 News.
Bouchard said the union’s focus is on the layoffs in the fire department.
“These men haven’t been given a single indication of how they will be made whole by the city,” Bouchard said. “If voting to violate our contract and laying off employees for the first time in department history was not enough. The city has given zero information or guidance to the men whose lives they have altered immediately and permanently.”