WATERTOWN, NY — A state Supreme Court judge ruled in the city’s favor to block arbitration over the “minimum manning” clause in its labor contract with the firefighters, which requires 15 firefighters must be on duty at all times.
It’s been the main sticking point during the city’s 3 1/2 -year contract stalemate with the Watertown Professional Fire Fighters Association Local 191.
Union President Daniel Daugherty confirmed Tuesday morning that Judge James P. McClusky ruled against the firefighters by granting a permanent stay of arbitration.
City Manager Sharon A. Addison said she was “very pleased” with Judge McClusky’s decision.
“I’m elated,” she said. “I mean, we’ve fought long and hard for what is in the best interest of the city.”
Ms. Addison and City Council members have been banking on a decision to block arbitration.
Two weeks ago, the city’s attorney, Terry O’Neil, told reporters he didn’t want to give up the public’s rights in the case, and that’s why he pursued the stay.
In arbitration, the city would give up the right for an appeal and the rule of law.
The union believes it would have a good case if it goes to an arbitrator.
In a Jan. 16 hearing, Mr. O’Neil argued that minimum manning was a “no layoff clause.” In his decision on Tuesday, Judge McClusky concluded, “the court finds the provision is a job security provision.”
Citing case law, Judge McClusky ruled that elected officials have the right “to control budget through managing the costs of employees” and should not be subjected “to the whim of arbitrators.”
“We obviously disagree,” Mr. Daugherty said.
He was told on Tuesday morning by Syracuse attorney Nathaniel Lambright, the union’s representative, that the judge ruled with the city.
He instructed Mr. Lambright “to immediately file” an appeal with the Appellate Division, Fourth Department, in Rochester.
Mr. Daugherty noted that Judge McClusky predicted in a Jan. 16 court proceeding that the case would be appealed no matter the result of that day’s proceeding.