YONKERS, N.Y. – A dispute between city officials and Yonkers firefighters over minimum staffing levels will continue into February.
The two sides began an expedited arbitration process Tuesday, when they met for six hours behind closed doors at the Yonkers Riverfront Library. They will reconvene with the arbitrator on Feb. 1.
“Yesterday was the start of a long-overdue process, and the mayor is confident that the process will work in this case to be fair and hopefully come to a resolution that benefits the taxpayers,” Mayor Mike Spano’s spokesperson, Christina Gilmartin, said Wednesday.
The issue is Spano’s cost-cutting plan, which would reduce the department’s minimum staffing numbers from 57 firefighters per tour to 48 before replacements can be brought in. City officials estimated it would save taxpayers $5 million a year.
A temporary restraining order issued last year has prevented the cost-cutting plan from taking effect.
The two sides had planned to meet with an arbitrator in October to discuss the issue but agreed to delay that to try to resolve the dispute. Those negotiations failed, and the arbitration hearing began Tuesday.
The arbitrator heard testimony from Anthony Pagano, the retired fire commissioner and former union leader, said Barry McGoey, president of Local 628 of the firefighters union.
Pagano, who negotiated the current language in the contract, spoke at length about the deal, McGoey said. He said the firefighters will call additional witnesses as they present their case.
After the first day, McGoey said, he is “absolutely” confident that the union's case would be convincing.
“Hopefully he (the arbitrator) has the opportunity to review all testimony and documents and make an appropriate decision based on the totality of the evidence,” McGoey said.
In the event the hearings are not completed on Feb. 1, an additional session has been set for Feb. 15.