Lockport Sues Firefighters’ Union to Block Arbitration

The city of Lockport, New York and Lockport Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 963 have been locked in an ongoing battle the likes of which few other fire departments of its size have experienced. The contentious relationship has resulted in at least five lawsuits between the parties…. THIS YEAR ALONE!!! My database contains a total of 14 cases involving Lockport since 2008 and I doubt I have them all.

The latest suit was filed on Monday of this week by the city as it seeks to block the union’s efforts to arbitrate the contracting out of EMS services and the reduction of shift staffing from 9 to 6.

The city’s attorney, David E. Blackley, was quoted as saying “You can’t get blood from a stone. There’s no clear-cut clause in there that guarantees a certain number of people show up to work every day.”

Local 963 president Kevin W. Pratt was quoted as saying: “The stay of arbitration is a newly learned trick David Blackley has gotten from the (New York State) Conference of Mayors as a stall tactic, instead of coming to the table and settling our differences.”

Recent litigation has involved important issues (staffing, pension and healthcare) and not-so-important issues (garage-door openers). While Local 963’s battle is unusual, there are a few other departments being forced to fight unnecessary battles with local officials who prefer to ignore collective bargaining laws and litigate rather than negotiate. North Kingstown (RI) Firefighters IAFF 1651 and Chambersburg (PA) Firefighters IAFF 1813 are two locals that find themselves in the same situation.

Here is more on the Lockport lawsuit.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 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) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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