UPDATED: Firefighters Say Town Manager’s Statement on Contract Was ‘Deceiving’

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{Updated: The previous version of this story incorrectly stated the number of years the Watertown Firefighters have not had an agreement. It has been nearly six years}

The Firefighters responded to Town Manager Michael Driscoll’s statement about the fire contract negotiations, saying his words were deceiving and that they had been willing to give up parts of their contract. 

At the June 9 Town Council, Driscoll responded to the statements made by Local 1347 – the Watertown fire union – and their supporters about the prolonged contract negotiations. The firefighters have been working nearly six years without a contract agreement.

During the Public Forum at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Al Morash – secretary of the Fire Union – said that Driscoll’s statement was “deceiving.”

Paul Lafauci, a firefighter who took part in the negotiations, said that he started to go through the statement to highlight inaccuracies.

“I stopped because I was running out of ink,” Lafauci said.

Driscoll said the firefighters asked for a much higher increase than other unions in town took over the same time. The raises and benefits requested by the union during negotiations would have provided a 19 percent raise compared to the 5 percent to 6.5 percent raises given to other town unions from Fiscal Years 2009 to 2013. When the contract went to a neutral arbitration panel, the award decided by the panel would have given the union a 9.5 percent increase, Driscoll said.

The Town Manager also compared Watertown to 10 communities he said were comparable to Watertown, adding that had the firefighters taken what was offered by the town they would be among the highest paid.

Morash said it is not right to compare Watertown Firefighters with other towns or even most unions in town. He said the only union the firefighters should be compared to is the Police because they are the only ones with sick-time buyback.

Also, the town negotiators told the firefighters they should not receive equal compensation as the police because their work is “not as inherently dangerous as the police,” Morash said. He noted that a firefighter is killed in the line of duty in the United States every three days.

The union was willing to give up its sick time buyback, as the police had done, Morash said, and he said that would have yielded more savings. The police contract saved about $640,000 by doing away with sick time buyback, Morash said, while the fire contract would have saved $1.3 million.

Firefighter Kevin MacDonald, who has also pulled papers to run for Town Councilor at-large, said the Council voted to give a pay increase to the Town Auditor while unions were asked to take pay freezes.

MacDonald’s father served on Town Meeting before Watertown moved to the city model with a town council and strong town manager. He said Driscoll has gotten too much influence on decisions made by the Watertown government.

“A strong town manager may look good … but at times it feels like we have an unelected mayor telling the Council what to do,” MacDonald said.

 See more coverage from Watertown News:

Town Manager Fires Back on Watertown Firefighters’ Contract Dispute

Town Council Rejects Watertown Firefighters Contract

Unions Rally for Firefighters, Council Stands Behind Rejecting Contract

LETTER: Fire Union President Reacts to Council Rejecting Contract

2 thoughts on “UPDATED: Firefighters Say Town Manager’s Statement on Contract Was ‘Deceiving’

  1. Al Morash. Correction. I said that the Fire Department should be compared to the Police Department because we were the only Unions to have their sick time buyback restructured. Not we were civil service. Big difference.

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