For firefighters’ union, inaction may be the best action

Mayor Shayne Gallo. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

Mayor Shayne Gallo. (Photo: Phyllis McCabe)

With contract talks stalled, the head of Kingston’s firefighters union said that his members might opt to ride out Mayor Shayne Gallo’s term in office without a contract and hope he doesn’t get re-elected, rather than seek binding arbitration. In an interview with the Kingston Times, Kingston Professional Firefighters Association President Tom Tiano accused Gallo of sabotaging contract talks and misleading the public about the union’s demands.

“He painted a very bad picture, like we’re the children of the devil and we don’t care about the people of the city whatsoever,” said Tiano of a recent radio appearance by Gallo on local radio station WGHQ in which he discussed the contract talks. “It was misleading and untruthful.”

City firefighters have been working without a contract since January 2012, the month Gallo took office. Kingston’s Police Benevolent Association and Civil Service Employees Association are also working on expired contracts. Since taking office, Gallo has promised to take a hard line with the unions by demanding concessions on manning clauses and other work rules that drive up overtime. Relations with the fire department have been especially rocky, though. Early in his term — following the departure of two top KFD officials in a payroll scandal — Gallo blasted the department as embodying a “culture of entitlement” that had prevailed under his predecessors. Gallo has also accused the firefighters’ union of making outrageous demands at contract talks including annual raises of 3.5 percent, an increase in the maximum number of accrued vacation days employees can carry over, and no increase in firefighters’ contribution to the city’s health plan.


Tiano, however, claims that Gallo is misleading the public about the nature of the contract talks. According to the union president, the 3.5 percent raise was simply an opening position that was quickly taken off the table and replaced with an offer of zero raises for three years. The request for an increase in carried over vacation days, Tiano said, was meant to accommodate Gallo’s own demand to reduce the number of firefighters who could take vacation at any given time while ensuring that senior employees would not lose accrued time off because of the 56-day cap. And Tiano said, while the union had declined a request to increase payments into the health care system beyond the current 10 percent, they had also offered to remove a $1,000 cap on health care payments. Removing the cap, Tiano said, would likely double actual dollars paid into the system by most firefighters and save the city money. Tiano said that Gallo had also rejected the union’s request to switch from 10- to 14-hour shifts to 24 hour shifts — a change he said would help cut overtime costs.

“Most of what we initially put on the table has already come off,” said Tiano. “But the Mayor fails to tell people that.”

A deal? Not quite

Tiano said that after a round of contract talks this spring, union officials believed they had struck a deal until Gallo added a demand for an increase in retiree health care contributions.

There are 4 comments

  1. EyeonKingston

    I thought Gallo was a union attorney? I am so surprised he can’t negotiate a fair contract? Is he good at anything other then being angry all the time?

    1. gerald berke

      Gallo’s and Zwieben’s pursuit of old pay records is counter productive and against the public’s interest: the city has a responsibility establish clear and fair and certain processes with its employees. Furthermore, this pursuit without estimates of costs of the search against some estimate against returns… that’s fiscally irresponsible. Finally, penalizing employees that followed established policy and there being no reasonable possibility of willful erroneous pay claims, the search seems to be more crusade than administration, an Inspector Jabert and in fact, Gallo and Zwieben have both claimed not only the following of intractable law but have invoked the constitution… aside from that being just silly, it is also very poor law… for people trained in the law and paid and empowered to enforce it, this is no small matter.
      To the extent that Gallo serves the city well, he has a duty to work towards re election and continuing of the good work. To the extent that he embarks on ineffective and disruptive quests, he doubly works against the public interest by damaging the city and damaging his re election efforts.
      He’s also hurting his efforts to have the union join in binding arbitration which this writer supports.

  2. The Red Dog Party

    I have to support he Mayor on this one. Politically, he’s bound to the Working Families Party, strong supporters of unions. He wouldn’t be following a hard line of contract negotiations with the union(s) if it wasn’t absolutely essential to the City of Kingston’s fiscal well-being.

  3. gerald berke

    Let’s see, Gallo is looking out for the entire city of which the firefighters are a part, and the firefighters are looking out for: the firefighters. And while the city will accept binding arbitration, the union won’t.
    I think that’s a great argument for making sure Gallo is reelected… over an above the recommendation of his hard work, active involvement and knowledge of the city.
    Mr. Gallo has made himself very available to the citizens: he steps out of his office with great frequency attending and supporting public meeting and affairs. He is generous with his time and people who are unfavorable or indifferent to the Gallo administration, who when treated to a well thought out reason for actions and programs of Kingston, come away greatly impressed with the thoughtful and excellent government being provided.
    Tiano and this Union offer no good reasons for citizens to oppose this mayor

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