Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

January 12, 2014

Fire union and city looking to talk

BY JOE OLENICK joe.olenick@lockportjournal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — Both the City of Lockport and the Lockport Professional Firefighters Association say they want to get back to the negotiating table.

LPFA President Kevin W. Pratt said the union has not heard from city officials since November. Pratt sent a letter to the Common Council stating the union’s intention to talk and the lack of a response from the city concerning a proposal the LPFA sent last month.

The LPFA had contact with a negotiator until Christmas but haven’t heard back since, Pratt said.

“We haven’t spoken in some time,” Pratt said. “We haven’t heard back.”

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said he believes the two sides will be meeting soon. The city will be giving the LPFA some dates to consider meeting on, he said.

“We’ll be talking soon, we don’t have anything set up yet,” Tucker said. “We did some negotiating before the budget was done, things were different then. We gave them a proposal, they didn’t like it. They gave us a proposal last December, we didn’t like it. It’s a back-and-forth.”

One of the main points in negotiations has been about a retirement incentive for the veteran firefighters. Pratt said there has been talk about an incentive, which would have given retiring firefighters $1,250 per year of service with a cap of $30,000. In fact, the union offered to just take $1,000 per year of service, Pratt said.

But an incentive was never offered, Pratt said.

Tucker disagrees.

“They were offered a retirement incentive, we talked about it,” he said.

Another topic that has come up a few times during contact talks is a scheduling change for the Fire Department. The department would be divided into three platoons and they would be assigned to rotating 24-hour shifts: one day on, two days off.

At present, there are four platoons and two work each day, one for 14 hours and the other for 10 hours.

While at first the schedule change wasn’t something the union wanted, Pratt said it was time the change happened. It would reduce overtime substantially, possibly $225,000 to $250,000 a year in savings, Pratt said. 

Under the four-platoon system, if too many are on vacation or otherwise absent, firemen from other platoons are called in to reach the nine-man minimum. The fill-ins are paid time-and-a-half for the entire shift.

As a result of the city’s fiscal difficulties, and corresponding 2014 budget, seven firefighters were laid off. The number was originally eight but a firefighter retired and that position was not filled.

LFD is down to 38 firefighters, but the drop should not affect the minimum staffing requirements of nine firefighters per shift, Tucker said last week.

Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241 or follow him on Twitter @joeolenick.