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CITY, TWO FIRE UNIONS SETTLE LONG-STANDING DISPUTES

The Galie administration and the city's two fire unions have reached an agreement on staffing issues and other policies that led infighting and legal volleys and over the past two years.

The agreement, which will be considered by the City Council on Monday, would vacate a Feb. 9 State Supreme Court decision ordering the city to fill three budgeted fire captains positions, Mayor James C. Galie said Wednesday. Members of both unions ratified the agreement Aug. 20.

Galie said the administration has agreed to fill the three posts and the unions -- the Uniformed Firefighters Association Local 714 and the Fire Officers Association Local 3359 -- have agreed to withdraw the lawsuit, thus vacating the State Supreme Court decision.

Galie said the court's ruling would have "taken away our ability to manage." . . . It was totally wrong."

The city had launched an appeal of the order.

Meanwhile, City Administrator Anthony J. Restaino said he will promote Firefighters John Frosolone, Gregory Colangelo and Donato Iadicicco to the rank of fire captain. Their wages and benefits as captains will be retroactive to Jan. 1, Richard L. Horn, president of the Uniformed Firefighters Association, said Wednesday.

Horn also said the agreement requires that future vacancies within the department, with the exception of chief, be filled within 30 days after the vacancy occurs.

Horn said other issues settled in the agreement include rescinding Fire Chief Paul Shanks' policies on sick leave, the wearing of uniforms off-duty and forced vacation and compensatory time, all implemented in 1997 and 1998. The unions, meanwhile, agreed to drop grievances and other actions over the policies.

Under the agreement, firefighters cannot randomly be forced to take vacation or compensatory time -- as occurred earlier in year. The city has agreed to return vacation time and compensatory time any firefighters were forced to take. Horn said fire personnel have agreed to do this gradually, through next year, to reduce the city's overtime costs.

Horn also said Shanks' sick-leave policy had required firefighters to remain at home unless they obtained the chief's permission to leave. Also rescinded was a policy that banned fire personnel from wearing uniforms and insignias off-duty.

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