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FIRE UNIONS AT ODDS WITH FALLS OVER FITNESS TESTS

Accusations between the city administration and the city's two fire unions flew again Wednesday -- this time over mandatory pulmonary fitness tests for firefighters who must wear respirators in the course of their duties.

Mayor James C. Galie, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino and Chief Paul S. Shanks said firefighters are refusing the tests, which the administration officials claim puts firefighters and members of the public at risk.

Officials of the city's two fire unions counterclaimed that the administration has failed to negotiate the specifics of the tests and what measures would be taken against firefighters who failed. They called the administration's actions "prebudget harassment."

The parties have been at odds since last November when Galie proposed cutting 27 firefighting positions. The City Council eventually restored 17 of the positions.

Both sides accused the other of failure to negotiate over the terms of the fitness tests.

The administration officials said the city is subject to fines by the state of $200 per man, or a total of $24,000, every day that the city is not in compliance. Shanks said 120 firefighters are to be tested immediately and the remaining 15 later.

The state Department of Labor gave the city until July 1 to comply.

The original complaint about the city's non-compliance to the state was made by Niagara Falls Uniformed Firefighters Association 714 in February.

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