The City of Lockport firefighters won their appeal last week when a state appeals court ruled they are entitled to arbitration concerning the reduction of staff. The reduction came when the city’s ambulance service was abolished in the fall of 2014.
The December 2014 decision was upheld unanimously by the State Supreme Court that restricted the City of Lockport from stopping arbitration with the firefighters union. The court did emphasize it was not taking sides concerning whether the city could cut staff and eliminate city ambulances – just that the firefighters could arbitrate over the matters, calling it a “… matter for the arbitrator to resolve.”
The arbitration request was filed by the Lockport Professional Fire Fighters Association before the ambulances were even removed. The minimum number of firefighters per shift would be reduced from nine to seven in an effort to reduce the cost of overtime. Once the ambulance duties were given to Twi Cities Ambulance, personnel levels were cut further to six.
According to the firefighters’ union’s contract, the city needed to staff equipment adequately to ensure safety. It allowed for cutting below nine firefighters per shift since technology had been updated and needs had changed.
The city argued the financial trouble in 2013 and 2014 was relevant and had to be taken into consideration when making cutbacks. The arbitrator will decide once and for all whether or not the city overstepped its boundaries and will determine whether or not staff needs to be reinstated. Both sides will be given the opportunity to present their cases.