WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWTI) — Aside from the stressors brought forward this spring by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Watertown Fire Department continues await a contract after eight years of negotiations.
A contract for the department is in the works after years of disagreements and little progress since 2012.
Station Fire Chief Matthew Timerman spoke on the current standings between the workers union and the City of Watertown. He said it is all about manning, which leads to financial implications.
Under New York State Labor Laws and the stations contract that’s been extended, the minimum manning amount is 15 fighters. The WFD currently employs 68 individuals, meaning that there is typically 16-17 per shift.
However, this has previously been problematic when platoon men take vacation, have sick days, or request holidays. This has required the station to pay more overtime hours.
Aside from normal station spendings and COVID-19 implications, according to Chief Timerman, the city has spent upwards of $1 million on court hearings and attorney fees.
“We want employees that are coming to work and giving 100% but morale has begun to affect performance,” said Timerman. “It’s hard to make improvements while fighting this battle.”
Chief Timerman expressed his hopes for a full contract to be negotiated. He is hopeful that the city and union can find a common ground, and focus on the same goals.
Generally, a new contract would allow the Watertown Fire Department to budget for the future, create financial breathing room, and rebuild a relationship between labor and management.
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