IAFF LOCAL 1799 REJECTS ANOTHER OFFER TO SETTLE STAFFING DISPUTE – BOUCHARD & BOUCHARD REFUSE TO NEGOTIATE
On February 25th, 2022 the City of Ogdensburg provided the following settlement offer to International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) Local 1799 that essentially guaranteed minimum staffing of 4 personnel on duty each work shift for the remainder of 2022, and increased the minimum staffing to 5 personnel on duty for each work shift in 2023.
On March 2, 2022 IAFF Local 1799 rejected the offer. The details of the offer are listed below:
As an alternative to continued litigation and arbitration, the following resolution is offered to settle the minimum manning dispute. In exchange for the organizational changes and CBA tweaks noted below, the City will be able to (a) maintain the minimum staffing level at 4 for 2022; and (b) once enough new personnel graduate from the first available Fire Academy in 2023, increase the staffing level to 5 For 2023-25 and maintain 20 shift positions for the balance of the contract term.
To make this increased staffing model work, the following changes are needed:
- Realizing the City has the statutory right to abolish positions - modify the FD organizational structure in the CBA to 1-Chief (a non-bargaining unit position), 1-Deputy Chief (a non-bargaining unit position), 4 Captains, 16 Firefighters for the duration of the current contract.
- Reduce hazard pay to $3/hr for the remainder of 2022 as long as daily minimum staffing does not drop below 4.
- Eliminate hazard pay for 2023-2025 as long as daily minimum staffing does not drop below
- Reduce from two FF/FO’s on scheduled vacation/comp block leave per day to one FF/FO.
- Forego the EMT Stipend for 2022-2025
Simultaneously on March 4th, 2022 Nathaniel Lambright, the attorney representing IAFF Local 1799, filed an Improper Practice Charge against the City claiming violations of the Union’s sovereignty in reference to an email sent by Fire Chief Stephen Jellie to all supervisors reinforcing the use of the chain of command to resolve employee issues. The City finds the allegations in the complaint false, some long untimely and nothing more than a continued effort by the State Firefighters Union to dictate the level of staffing and financial resources the City will expend at their dictation; the City is no longer being controlled by labor unions. Time and time again city officials provided fair and reasonable offers to settle the matter and IAFF Local 1799 rejected them all without discussion. IAFF Local 1799 is now refusing the latest good faith offer from the City that will maintain daily staffing at the levels IAFF Local 1799 assert are for safety purposes and needed to effectively perform their job functions. IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard and his uncle, retired Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Bouchard (Bouchard & Bouchard) continue to be more concerned about their perks and entitlements than they are the safe firefighter staffing rhetoric they profess, yet they take no definitive action to resolve the matter collectively. Recently the last remaining laid off Firefighter, Jacob Thornton, accepted Fire Chief Stephen Jellie’s re-employment offer to his position after being laid off for just over a year. Bouchard & Bouchard were offered at least 4 fair and solid good faith settlement offers in 2021 that would have avoided the lengthy layoff of Mr. Thornton and guaranteed minimum staffing at 4 personnel but they refused each and every offer proposed by the City so the lucrative perk packages would not be lost by those senior personnel that remained. During the same period in 2021 the elder Bouchard, facing severe disciplinary action, accepted a retirement incentive package that included a final paycheck that totaled over $60,000, once again solidifying “Perks over Personnel”.
IAFF Local 1799 President Jason Bouchard continues his long standing practice of refusing to discuss any matter with the Fire Chief or City Manager prior to filing formal complaints, and he continues to allow the high paid union attorney and his uncle, retired Assistant Fire Chief Ronald Bouchard, to make all the critical decisions.
The Bouchard & Bouchard Team have been insistent from the onset of the staffing dispute that they will never negotiate changes to the hastily ratified contract that was agreed to by then Deputy Mayor Dan Skamperle and the former majority City Council immediately following the staggering 2019 election defeat of Mayor Ashley, Councilors Jennifer Stevenson and David Price; a shameful act that continues to wreak the planned havoc they each intended once voters denied them each another term in office.
Since taking office in January 2020, Mayor Jeffrey M. Skelly has worked tirelessly to save the City from financial ruin and bankruptcy, while working equally as hard to accelerate the revival of the City – those efforts are succeeding. IAFF Local 1799 refuses to join those efforts for the overall good of the City so they can insure their singular interest is maintained regardless of the cost to other departments and programs. The City of Ogdensburg can no longer and will no longer allow employee labor unions to control the destiny, direction and decisions of an entire city. The City will continue to look for ways to resolve this matter collectively and requests that IAFF Local 1799 participate.