Northampton city council rejects firefighters' contract - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Northampton city council rejects firefighters' contract

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Thursday night, city council voted 5 to 3 to reject a new firefighter contract. The firefighters' union, Local 108, has been negotiating with the mayor's office on a new deal since June of 2010.

When you speak with councilors on both sides of the issue, their stances really are not that far apart.

"At this point in time, there really isn't the funding for it," said City Councilor Gene Tacy, who also serves on the council's finance committee.

Tacy was one of five councilors who voted against the new contract.  He told CBS 3 that he read through the new deal 3 or 4 times in the past week.

"This has been going on a long time," said Tacy. "But, it was a contract that was written in 2007, expired in 2010. In that time, you know what happened to the economy."

Tacy said the city has seen its return on investments cut drastically, along with state and federal aid. He did not believe the proposal, to take money out of the city's stabilization fund was the answer.

"Essentially, everyone was of the same mind, 'ouch, this hurts'," City Council President Bill Dwight stated.

As painful as it may have been, Dwight was one of three councilors who voted in favor of the new contract. However, he said he did so out of respect to the process, and that there was no denying the city would feel a financial impact.

"The city does take a hit if this award were granted," said Dwight. "It's a question on whether you felt it was an obligation we needed to meet, or one we could get around."

Now, the firefighters and the mayor's office have to go back to the negotiating table, to come up with a deal that the council will accept. But they have plenty of questions that need answering.

"We have to figure out where it's going to take us in the future," said Tacy. "If we had found in favor of this vote and awarded this money, where would we get this money from? What else would we have to cut?"

"These are voted in moments in time," said Dwight. "So, maybe by the next time, the next settlement comes forward, maybe we have more money."

The firefighter's union, IAFF Local 108, responded with a press release late Friday afternoon.

In it, it said the union is currently exploring all options since a process like this is almost never rejected by a city's legislative branch.

They also said the outcome could diminish morale, and force some of the firefighters to seek other employment.

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