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Improper practice charge filed against city over layoff comments

According to a letter received by the mayor’s office on Monday, The Amsterdam Professional Firefighters Union has filed a improper practice charge against the City of Amsterdam with the New York State Employment Relations Board over comments made by Alderman Ron Barone regarding the subject of layoffs at a Common Council committee meeting on October 7th of this year. The comments were made after Fire Chief Michael Whitty reported to the council that his department had used almost all their yearly budget for overtime. At the meeting, Whitty requested the council restore their budget to the original department request of $100,000 for overtime which had been cut by the council by approximately 40%.

According to the letter, both the firefighter’s union and the city are in the process of negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement. The charge alleges that at the meeting, Barone “threatened in a public discussion with the Fire Chief that there will be layoffs in the fire department due to overtime costs in the department. No Council member took issue with Councilman Barone’s threat. Thus, upon information and belief, he spoke with the authority and consent of the Council.”

The letter states that the remarks were verified by the union’s president after a conversation with Chief Whitty on October 8th. The letter also cites an article published by the Mohawk Valley Compass on October 9, 2014 which reported the remarks made by Barone.

The letter claims that the remarks constitute a failure of the city to “bargain in good faith” which violates Article 14, Section 209-a.1(d) of the Civil Service Law. The letter requests the employee relations board “issue and Order reprimanding the City (officials, employees, agents and/or servants) from making such future threats, together with such other and further relief that the Board deems appropriate.”

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About Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of AnthemWebsites.com LLC which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.

5 Responses to Improper practice charge filed against city over layoff comments

  1. diane says:

    Kinda hard to lay someone off, when they have a no layoff clause in their contract. None of us were aware of that fact until we pulled and are now reading all of their past contracts. However, we were told by corporation counsel that all contract negotiations are on hold until we know better where we stand financially, which kinda makes sense to me.

  2. TJ Kelley says:

    The assertion that a ‘no-layoff’ clause got past the legal-eagle that is the 4th ward alderwoman is a bit astounding. That aside, she knows very well, and I trust her colleague Mr. Barone does too, that the interpretation of a layoff and that of ‘abolition of position’ are two distinct matters. Barone’s own statement provides such evidence of understanding: “We’ve got to start slapping hands,” said Barone, “stay within the parameters of the budget or guess what, you’ll get layoffs. That’s another way – attrition.”

    I recall the firefighters’ union in Johnson City, NY forced to confront similar issues a few years back. The village govt chose to act not in good-faith, but with the expressed intention of abolishing positions; those positions that will be permanently removed (i.e. Unfunded by the budget process). These firefighters would not be laid-off (the understanding of temporary unemployment with likely re-hire if a position of similar stature becomes open again), their job(s) simply would cease to exist by virtue of budgetary elimination. That’s not a layoff; it isn’t even attrition; let’s call it for what it is: it is a dishonest attempt by city legislators to put out of work public servants by virtue of enabling a legal maneuver to FIRE them.

    Sadly enough, the NYS Court of Appeals ruled in its decision that the contract language prohibiting layoffs did not include protection from abolition of position. That is unfair, deceptive, unethical, and unfortunately entirely legal. Before members of the common council start on a trek to fire city employees, they should remember they can be fired every two years…and in this case probably should.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I believe the contract that the firefighters are working under right now is a five year deal that was signed two years ago.

      • TJ Kelley says:

        Exactly! But remember that the no-layoff clause in public safety (police dept) had been a major arguing point throughout the 2011 mayoral race. Joe Emannuel brought up the notion frequently as an attack on Mayor Thane; as if her good-faith effort to secure resources for and to the public (wellbeing & safety) had been a treacherous betrayal of public funds.

        Again, the no-layoff clause in these contracts is not a new, hidden or otherwise surprising measure. And the stench being given off by the 4th ward alderwoman that it was snuck in the back door at the 11th hour is baloney. Remember too, Ms. Hatzenbuhler, a member of the Repuclican Committee, claims no knowledge of city contracts used as a campaign issue by her party, it’s titular head and her mayoral candidate.

        I’m calling her out on the carpet.