YONKERS, N.Y. – Contract negotiations between the city and the Yonkers firefighters union have reached an impasse, a state board has ruled.
The New York State Public Employee Relations Board decided talks between the two sides have stalled, thereby sending the process to mediation, Mayor Mike Spano’s office announced Wednesday.
Spano said the ruling as a “major victory” in his effort to reform fire department labor practices.
“We have been saying for several months now that the fire union will not agree to meaningful discussions to reform costly and outdated contract provisions that drive up overtime, sick leave and reduce the effectiveness of the department,” Spano said.
Should the two sides remain unable to reach an agreement, the next step would be binding arbitration supervised by the state. Union leader Barry McGoey said the mayor’s victory declaration was telling and said City Hall has never been serious about settling the contract dispute.
“By declaring “victory” Mike Spano has finally come clean and admitted that he never intended to bargain in good faith in an attempt to try to reach an amicable agreement with the Yonkers firefighters,” McGoey said. “Mike Spano’s ultimate goal has now been revealed to have been designed to bring about an impasse by refusing to be reasonable or realistic in his dealings with the Yonkers firefighters.”
Firefighters, who have been without a contract since 2009, and city officials have been wrangling over the terms of a new deal for months. The two sides met late last year in a series of planned negotiations but were unable to reach an agreement.
The mayor has asked the union to agree to lower starting pay, a higher workload and limited sick time – demands the union has opposed.
Spano’s office said Wednesday the mediation process will allow the city to put a wide range of issues on the table. That includes minimum staffing levels and whether the fire department should retain first responder status for all medical emergencies, both of which have appeared before an arbitrator in separate hearings.
“The bottom line is that the fire union leadership’s tactics of delay are over,” Spano said. “The city has won the right to put the people’s case before a mediator, and ultimately an arbitrator, so that we can force a decision on these costly practices, whether the union likes it or not.”
McGoey countered that the union has acted in good faith and put forth proposals that could have saved the city millions of dollars over the course of several years.
"Instead of declaring victory, Mike Spano would better serve the citizens of Yonkers by rolling up his sleeves and sitting down with Local 628 and resolve the Yonkers firefighter’s contract, which has been expired for almost four years,” he said.