Erie Firefighters get Split Decision from Court

Erie Pennsylvania Firefighters, IAFF Local 293, recently received a mixed decision on an appeal of an arbitrator’s award. Arbitrator Michael Zobrak had previously issued an award that mandated the city increase minimum staffing from four to five firefighters on all companies if the city maintained six or fewer companies, or in the alternative maintain four per rig if an additional company is placed in service beginning January  1, 2010.

Zobrak’s award also ruled that the city must discontinue the use of "dual companies," (a single crew that can respond with either and engine or ladder) in favor of single companies for the express reason "to ensure the safety of all bargaining unit members." Finally,  the award that called for the restoration of a "reverse" Deferred Option Retirement Program, or DROP.

The city appealed the award, claiming that Zobrak exceeded his authority. On Tuesday, December 8, 2009, the Erie County Court of Common Pleas sustained staffing award but ruled against the firefighters on the DROP program. Both parties plan to appeal. The city claims the staffing award will require them to hire an additional 24 firefighters and cost $1.73 million in the first year.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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