2016-04-14 / News

Delay in FD contract not seen as concern

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD – Firefighters are continuing to negotiate a new contract with the city. Their last contract expired in June, but continues in force until a new contract is approved.

Tim Sevigny, president of the Biddeford Career Firefighters Association, said the 10-month delay is more of a circumstance of timing than any indication of a standoff.

“We’ve been very quiet because we’re working with the city,” Sevigny said. “We’re moving along. That’s the important thing.”

The union represents the city’s 40 firefighters but does not represent the fire chiefs or 28 members of the call force.

Sevigny said last year the city also had to negotiate contracts with the police force and public works employees.

“Negotiating with police and public works, we were on the backburner,” Sevigny said. “Then we had a new city manager, then there were elections (for city council).”

Sevigny also had to take two months off of work due to a back injury, and said the city was gracious in waiting for his return.

“In that process, the city recognized that I was president and had an active role in negotiations, and the city agreed to take a step back and wait,” Sevigny said.

City Manager James Bennett this year notified the city council that he would personally handle contract negotiations instead of hiring a negotiator. Sevigny said the changed approach to negotiation has improved relations between the firefighters and the city.

Last year, Michael Wing was hired by the city to negotiate contracts with the police officers and public works employees. A professional mediator, John Alfano, was eventually enlisted to resolve differences in those contract negotiations.

“I like to be fiscally responsible,” Sevigny said. “When you bring in an outside agency, are they working for the betterment of themselves or both sides? … There’s no misguided information. Information is going back and forth directly. There’s no negotiator that may control the message to the councilors with their own opinion … Why spend thousands of dollars just to push information. What message does that send?”

Sevigny said the union has communicated clearly areas of their contract that need to be fixed, and the question now is how to get there.

Bennett told the Courier by email, “I am not willing to comment at all on labor negotiations. I will confirm that they are ongoing with the fire department and since I have taken over the process, we are not currently involved in any impasse resolution process.”

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