In hopes of for-stalling planned layoffs of two firefighters, on May 2 the attorney for the local firefighters’ union informed the Village of Garden City that two career firefighters who are eligible to retire (with over 20 years of service to the village) will be doing so by June 1. However, in spite of the possible retirements, the Village has said that it will go forward with the layoff plans.
Under the procedures of New York State, the two firefighters will file retirement papers with New York State and the village will be officially notified by the state of the retirements. While that has yet to happen, the local firefighters’ union notified the Village of Garden City that the two people “are definitely retiring.”
One of the soon-to-be-retired men contacted The Garden City News on Tuesday, May 10 to say that both retirements were taken “to save jobs” of their fellow firefighters. The firefighter questioned the rationale used at public meetings and through the village’s press releases in the newspaper, saying the two layoffs approved with the 2016-’17 budget were “a strong arm tactic to get the union to agree to a contract on their terms.”
At a meeting of the Garden City Public Library Board on Monday, May 9th, a member of the Village Board of Trustees provided an update on the planned fire department cuts.
“You probably have been reading in the paper about the firefighters. With the budget that goes into effect June 1, it is down two firemen. We will be laying off two firemen effective June 1 assuming that an agreement isn’t reached with the firefighters’ union – which I have some doubts about whether that can be reached or not,” said Trustee John Delany at the GCPL Board meeting.
In an interview with The Garden City News also on May 10, the Garden City Professional Firefighters’ Association President T.J. Michon reflected on those comments.
Back in April, Michon questioned Trustees Robert Bolebruch and Stephen Makrinos during their village updates at the WPOA meeting at Homestead School on Tuesday, April 12 (Michon is a resident of the west).
That night Trustee Bolebruch’s answer to Michon was “this is not the place or the venue to sit here and renegotiate a contract, which I wish something could have been done with in the last three years.” He told Michon he was not a part of the village’s negotiation team with the fire union, but in Bolebruch’s new role as the commissioner of finance, he explained that for the 2016- ’17 budget the full Board of Trustees sat down and went over every topic at its meetings, ultimately “making a decision as a board” concerning costs.
However, after hearing about Delany’s comments at the Library Board meeting on Monday, Michon responded, “It seems to me the trustees are the ones who have
tied the layoffs to contract negotiations in the public’s eyes, which is completely inappropriate. The trustees should rescind the layoffs and give the two firefighters’ and their families some peace of mind, allow them not to have to worry about being laid off between now and June 1,” he said.
If the village were to still go through and carry two cuts from the approved budget as well as two retirements, Garden City would have 14 paid firefighters on staff.
Michon said he believes the village “needs to publicly come out and say in light of the retirements there is no need for the positions to be cut, since the two retirements will result in achieving the budgeted 16 paid fire positions as budgeted in the 2016-’17 budget. We feel it is still an inadequate and unsafe staffing level for the village and its residents, but it is achieving their goal of 16 positions in the budget.”
The Village of Garden City issued the following response to Michon’s comments, “The Village has no current plans to delay the layoffs of the two firefighters whose positions were eliminated in the 2016-17 budget. To the extent that the Village chooses to refill other positions that become vacant due to retirement or other reasons, firefighters who have been laid off will have priority in accordance with Civil Service rules. As the union knows, by agreement of the parties, the substance of the proposals currently under discussion is confidential and the Village will not respond to questions or statements about those proposals. The Village has acted, and will continue to act, with the utmost good faith in its negotiations with the union.”