Ogdensburg firefighter union’s win could cost city $500K

Published: Dec. 13, 2022 at 3:58 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, New York (WWNY) - It’s a win for Ogdensburg firefighters as an arbitrator rules in favor of the union in its contract battle with the city. This ruling could cost Ogdensburg more than half a million dollars.

The arbitration ruling finds Ogdensburg breached its contract with the city firefighters union. It has to do with how many people are on duty at one time. The contract states a minimum of five. The city staffed fewer than that.

As of now, to make things right, the city may have to pay more than a half million dollars to firefighters because they may have lost out on overtime pay.

“Obviously we need to sit down with the city management team and show them how we came up with the $532,000 that we believe we are entitled to in backpay and then we see what their position is and we move from there,” said Jason Bouchard, president, Professional Firefighters Local 1799.

Interim City Manager Andrea Smith says getting those funds will be difficult for a city that is already facing money problems.

“The decision of the arbitrator is disappointing for the city. Obviously, it has some significant ramifications in terms of staffing going forward as well as the required payout of hazard pay for the time in which the fifth man coverage wasn’t provided. So that has pretty significant ramifications financially for the city as well,” she said.

City Councillor Dan Skamperle thinks the city’s approach to cutting back the fire department is misguided and feels the city should be adding to the ranks.

“There could be much savings by right-sizing the fire department to 20 guys as of what New York state suggests and their financial restructuring board and they have chosen to spend more money on overtime while keeping less of a service in the fire department,” he said.

The ruling came down on December 10 from the New York State Public Employment Relations Board.