City firefighters will keep jobs, get raises and bonus under terms of settlement
Greg Ireland, fire union president, and Batavia City Manager Jason Molino have cut a deal after a marathon negotiation session Tuesday that will save some Fire Department jobs and put more money in the pockets of firefighters.
In exchange for several concessions by the city, the firefighters' union has agreed to drop its unfair labor practices claim against the city.
The Batavian has confirmed with two sources that the city has agreed to retain four positions that were slated for termination Monday, and to extend the current union contract -- originally ending in 2011 -- by two years, provide a 5-percent pay raise over the next two years and pay each member of the department a $1,000 bonus.
Additionally, the Sept. 1 staffing of 36 paid personnel will be retained throughout the term of the contract and not be reduced by either layoff or attrition.
Neither Molino nor Ireland would comment on specifics of the agreement (Molino spoke with WBTA this afternoon and would not confirm the settlement).
The City Council is meeting in closed session at this hour to hear for the first time details of the proposed settlement. When reached this afternoon, City Council President Charlie Mallow said he had no insights into the agreement.
Both the union and the council would need to approve the settlement.
The need for a settlement arises from the city's decision to eliminate the city ambulance service. The union maintained that the decision to eliminate the union jobs and inevitably replace them with contract workers violated the Taylor Law. The union filed its claim immediately after a county task force announced Mercy Flight as the preferred contractor for ground ambulance service in the county starting Sept. 1.
"The best solution for everyone involved, every one involved, including the city, the fire department and the community is to have a settlement in place before Sept. 1," said Ireland in a phone interview this evening.
Some people think Mercy Flight won't respond to calls in the city unless the city signs a contract with Mercy Flight, but Mercy Flight will be based in the city and Mercy Flight executives have said the ground ambulance service will respond to any calls sent to it by Genesee County dispatchers. But with a settlement, the city can sign a contract with Mercy Flight that will guarantee response times.
Ireland said the main reason to reach a settlement before Sept. 1 is just to ensure everybody can work together well.
"As we move forward, if there is a different ambulance service, then we need to continue to work with them as well because we're going to be on scenes together," Ireland said. "We need to be able to work amicably with everyone."
Many of the Mercy Flight employees will be former members of the city ambulance service. Fifteen city employees were hired by the Buffalo-based non-profit organization.
Under terms of the settlement, the EMS members who had their jobs eliminated will retain their unused vacation and comp time, holiday pay and earned longevity. Those stipulations appear to be items the laid-off workers would have received anyway. They will also get half of their sick time and one-month additional health care coverage.
AUDIO: Interview with Greg Ireland
UPDATE 7:50 p.m.: Council members came out of their closed session smiling and laughing but wouldn't comment on the settlement proposal. When asked what he thought of the settlement or if council would support it, a jovial Frank Ferrando said both times, "We'll have more for you on Monday."
Mallow said the council will meet in public session Monday, but stopped short of saying there would be a vote that night.
Molino only said "no comment."