After being without a contract for nearly five years, the captains, supervisors and battalion chiefs of the Hoboken Fire Officers Local 1076 urged the city council last night to resolve the dispute – something that the city hasn’t shown a willingness to do.
Fire officer union leaders Bernard Grilletti and Joseph Grossi, Jr said that they are simply trying to reach a new contract that is line with other municipalities’ fire officers’ contracts, even willing to make concessions to come to an agreement with the city.
Grilletti approached the mic to inform the council the status of negotiations with the city.
“On April 4, we provided a fair and reasonable proposal that is in line with other city bargaining units, but, again, nothing provided to us for review,” Grilletti began.
“To further our frustration, we met with the mayor and the business administrator to express our concern and disappointment in the city’s position to negotiate in good faith. The outcome of our meeting resulted in zero progress, again we ask why, why no progress and why continued disrespect?” asked Grilletti.
He was followed by Grossi, who said that the city’s counter offer, eight weeks after the union’s offer, include rollbacks in protections such as vacation time, terminal leave and minimal increments for newly promoted firefighters, “all the while receiving a very minimal economic raise.”
“These are all things when compared to neighboring cities … some of them aren’t even giving back anything, and if they are, it’s one thing and then you meet half-way. This is a slap in the face to our members,” said Grossi.
He also noted that morale within Hoboken’s firehouses is very low because of the lack of a new contract among the supervisors, captains and battalion chiefs of Local 1076.
In a one-on-one interview Grossi explained the union’s position.
“We ultimately feel that we just want to be on par with the other organizations within the city as well as the neighboring municipalities,” he began.
“Our ultimate goal is just to be fair and reasonable, and when Mayor Bhalla was mayor-elect in December, he said that fair and reasonable is perfectly fine. We presented that to the city council this evening, as well as corporation counsel and the business administrator, we thought we had some progress but we keep reaching a dead end.”
1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco weighed in by introducing a resolution urging the administration to finalize the outstanding fire officers’s contract, which was approved unanimously (9-0).
“I felt it necessary to put on the record, this council’s belief in the hardworking men and women of the fire department, and to urge this administration, to not make haste, to not look to arbitration after two meetings, but rather sit down with the very men and women that are protecting our streets 24/7 to see if there can be commonality in the contract,” the councilman said before the vote.
City spokesman Santiago Melli-Huber said that the coming to an agreement with the fire officers union is a top priority, explaining some of the particulars of what has been offered so far.
“The administration recognizes the hard work of the Firefighter Superior Officers and is committed to negotiating a fair contract that both recognizes their loyalty and dedication to the City but is also fiscally prudent. Salary is one of the main negotiating hurdles,” he began.
“With the top base salary of fire officers ranging from approximately $128,000-$155,000, last year, due largely to longevity and overtime pay, the lowest paid officer made approximately $139,000 and the highest paid officer made more than $210,000. The City has offered to adjust the top base salaries from $128,000-$155,000 to range between $134,000-$162,000.”
He continued that union reps are still asking for greater salary increases and the next negotiation meeting is scheduled for September 25th.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from a city spokesman.