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New London firefighters' jobs safe until Aug. 6 court hearing

By Kathleen Edgecomb

Publication: theday.com

Published July 18. 2012 2:00PM   Updated July 19. 2012 5:32PM
Tim Martin/The Day
New London Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, right, holds a press conference outside his office at City Hall with IAFF Local 1522 New London Firefighters president Rocco Basilica, center, and Lt. Jonathan Paige, left, concerning recent developments regarding layoffs Wednesday.

New London — Twenty-five city firefighters who had been served layoff notices will keep their jobs through Aug. 6 under a temporary injunction obtained by the union late Tuesday in New London Superior Court.

The injunction prevents the city from following through with the layoffs until the court holds a hearing Aug. 6 on the union's efforts to gain a permanent injunction.

"The layoffs are postponed pending the outcome of the Aug. 6 hearing,'' Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio said during a press conference at City Hall Wednesday. The city had told the firefighters they would be laid off as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Union President Rocco Basilica, who also appeared at the press conference, said the mayor has been "fair and equitable" to the union throughout the contract re-negotiation process.

"We're all trying to stay positive and we thank the mayor and his staff for their support," Basilica said.

The city administration and the union reached a tentative agreement in April that would have saved the 25 jobs and paved the way for firefighters to transfer from a 401(a) savings plan to a defined benefit retirement package with the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System.

The firefighters also agreed to reduce minimum staffing levels from 18 to 16 per shift, and they gave up raises for this year.

Earlier this month, the council voted down the agreement. The measure failed in a 3-3 vote twice at the same meeting. The matter was tabled at Monday's meeting.

Finizio accused some city councilors of playing politics by unnecessarily delaying action and trying to negotiate directly with the union.

He said past councils never took so long to approve a contract negotiated by the city manager. He said his chief administrative officer Jane Glover, who served on the council, including three terms as ceremonial mayor, told him the discussions sometimes took less than 15 minutes.

But Adam Sprecace, a three-term councilor who voted against the firefighters' tentative agreement, disagreed.

"That's not my recollection,'' he said.

When the city manager negotiated a contract, he would keep the council informed during the process and the council would be able to provide input, Sprecace said.

"The city manager would listen and make sure votes were there before making an agreement," he said.

Sprecace also dismissed Finizio's offer to answer any questions about the agreement, saying he doesn't need more time or information.

"It's been voted down,'' he said. "The logical thing to do is to make an amendment and bring it back to the council."

Sprecace's main sticking point is the city's financial exposure if the cost of contributing to the state retirement fund increases over time. He wants the union to share in any future increases in the city's contribution, through the life of the contract.

Wednesday, Chief Ronald Samul said department morale is as good as it could be.

"The guys are maintaining their professionalism,'' he said. "They're delivering serious high-level services and they're not concerned with all this while they're doing their work. It's after.''

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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