$4.3 million in back pay could lead to layoffs
By Andrew Firestone
A contract dispute between the city and the firefighters’ union, Local 76 to the tune of $4.3 million is set to go before the public today and tomorrow, with a final hearing before the Board of Aldermen financial matters committee on January 30. The dispute, which goes back to 2007, is whether or not to award the firefighters four successive pay raises, amounting to about 13 percent.
The city has said that the proposed pay raise, which was mandated by the State Joint Labor Management Council in December, will ravage its current employment. 31 layoffs, 18 positions left vacant, and the West Somerville library being shuttered is the cost.
While the city does have $2.4 million set aside in their contingency fund, the cuts to services will amount to around $1.15 million. 10 firefighters will be laid off, six will be demoted to lower pay grades, and seven police positions will be left vacant, along with five positions in the SFD.
While the city attempted to file a lawsuit against the SFD, Middlesex Superior Court, under the watch of Judge Thomas Murtagh, said that the state arbitration, which was initiated in 2010, is fair regarding the city’s ability to pay. Now, the Board of Aldermen must discuss where the money will come from, and how it will affect city services.
$346,182 of budgetary matters would also be delayed.
While Judge Murtagh declined to make a ruling at this time, Union head Jay Colbert has offered to defer payment until next year to stave off layoffs.