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Scott Flynn: Firefighters union president optimistic

On behalf of Northampton firefighters and captains, I would like to thank the community and businesses for the positive feedback and outpouring of support shown after a majority within the City Council, wrongly, voted to reject the funding for our contract.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed.

We would also like to thank the Gazette for its fair and impartial reporting on our story.

As you know, we have been working without a contract for over three years. Our membership has remained professional throughout the process and continues to put their confidence in union leaders who sit at the bargaining table with integrity and bargain over what is fair.

We began the process over 3½ years ago, and despite our disagreements and the breakdown in communication, we did everything we were asked to do, every step of the way. This came at a great expense to our members, who collectively paid over $30,000 for legal expenses. The firefighters and captains who sit at the bargaining table are not compensated for the countless hours of work it took to undergo this process.

The city, on the other hand, is represented by Fire Chief Brian Duggan, Director of Human Resources Glenda Stoddard and the city’s labor attorney, Layla G. Taylor of Sullivan, Hayes & Quinn, with scores of resources and seemingly deep pockets when it comes to legal fees: $56,000 and counting.

It is our own David and Goliath story.

This process is truly exhausting for our members and their families. As firefighters, it’s not in our nature to quit and we will not. We believe in the right to collective bargaining and trust the arbitration process; the sole means for police officers and firefighters to settle a contract. We have always been and will continue to be dedicated to our community.

As history has demonstrated, we are fiscally responsible “team players” and have only asked to be treated fairly along the way. We weren’t.

While bargaining in good faith, our firefighters and captains in the step system had their pay frozen, and we all lost overtime opportunities to non-bargaining unit members.

The treatment we received was unjust and our members were upset. We felt betrayed.

As a result, communication never got off the ground with then newly elected Mayor David Narkewicz in a way that I feel both parties would have preferred. The prolonged negotiating and arbitration process has only hindered any progress.

It’s clear that Mayor Narkewicz inherited a difficult situation, and I believe he truly supports the fire department.

So what’s next? If Mayor Narkewicz and I could sit down in a room without any distractions, I’d remain optimistic that we could work out our differences and reach an agreement that is both fair to the firefighters and in the city’s best interest given how far we’ve come.

If not, our members will have no choice but to regroup and start the process from the beginning, yet again.

Northampton firefighter Scott P. Flynn is president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 108.

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