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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Although the Common Council defunded five firefighter positions from the 2014 budget tonight — effective immediately — the city's Fire Board did not follow suit in laying off five firefighters.

"The board has taken no action on any issues tonight," said Fire Board President Peter Robinson.

While the Council controls the budget, the Fire Board is in charge of the hiring and firing — and laying off — of any members of the city's fire department. Their inaction means the layoffs are on hold for an undetermined amount of time.

The Council's unanimous vote was in reaction to the city's fire union, Local 963, voting unanimously Tuesday night to refuse an offer from the city for an early retirement option for as many as five firefighters with at least 20 years of service.

The union listed its objections to the buyout offer in a press release sent to media Tuesday night, saying it forces "retirees to take their buyouts over four years instead of in a lump sum at the time of retirement. The City would have no costs in 2014.  Also it eliminates a large amount of vacation time each year which reduces the amount of time shifts will be at minimum manning and generating overtime."

It continued, "For the offer to be accepted, the Lockport Firefighters would have to terminate all arbitrations, grievances and court cases regarding manning, staffing and equipment usage. In addition the Union had to agree to remove the manning clause from the contract."

The union has been working under a contract that expired Dec. 31, 2012.

The Fire Board's decision to not act could force the union and city officials to re-enter negotiations, although Robinson did not give a reason for their failure to act.

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