Judge hears arguments in dispute over Ogdensburg firefighters layoffs

WWNY Judge hears arguments in dispute over Ogdensburg firefighters layoffs

CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - A lawyer for Ogdensburg firefighters has asked a judge to restore laid-off firefighters to their jobs.

The city issued five lay-off notices at the end of 2020, effective with the new year. However, city officials said Friday that two more firefighters have opted to retire, and it appears that two more of the laid off firefighters will return to work. Overall firefighting staffing will now be at 20.

Lawyer Nathaniel Lambright told Supreme Court Judge Mary Farley in Canton Friday that the firefighters and Ogdensburg citizens will suffer “irreparable harm” if they are not put back on the job.

The lawyer for the city, Paul Sweeney, argued the city is within its rights to lay off the five firefighters. City officials say Ogdensburg faces a tax and budget crisis, and cutting the size of the fire department is mandatory.

Judge Farley told the two sides she will expedite her decision on firefighters’ motion for a preliminary injunction barring the layoffs.

In addition to this court case, the union has also filed a grievance over the layoffs. So that means this entire matter could eventually go before an arbitrator.

The city has also made yet another contract offer to firefighters. It’s again pledging to avoid layoffs if firefighters will give up some benefits.

“If it is a danger, then why can’t you give up some perks? Not only for your jobs but for the community and the safety of the community,” said Ogdensburg Mayor Mike Skelly.

The union says it will consider the contract offer. But it’s not sure what can be done at this point.

“The attack on our department is not going to stop with this,” said union president Jason Bouchard.

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