OSWEGO, NY – Mayor William J. Barlow Jr. announced today (Aug. 16) the signing of an Executive Order that orders the immediate end to an overtime practice within the Oswego Fire Department that rewarded the most senior firefighters with overtime in direct violation of the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the city and its firefighter’s union, according to the Mayor’s Office.
Mayor Barlow’s action was taken in light of confirmation that the fire department established a “Do Not Call List” in which junior members of the fire department were encouraged to sign off on all overtime opportunities which would then pass to those senior members within their last three years of employment before being eligible to retire, often with twenty years and full health insurance benefits and a pension equal to one-half of their last years of post-retirement employment.
“This blatant disregard for the taxpayers of the city of Oswego has come to an end,” Mayor Barlow said. “For too long the culture of the fire department allowed this pension padding to occur where firefighters were encouraged and allowed to take as much overtime in their last years before retirement thus increasing their pension benefits. I put an end to this practice.”
The Executive Order was issued on August 10, 2016, and directs the fire department to follow the clear provisions of the agreement between the union and the city.
The agreement dictates that overtime opportunities be evenly spread out amongst all firefighters.
If the agreement was followed, no one firefighter would have earned more than approximately $6,200 in extra pay, with the vast majority of firefighters each making between $4,000 and $5,000.
Instead, an investigation by the Barlow administration revealed that several firefighters in the last years prior to retirement made anywhere from a low of $15,000 in overtime up to a high of more than $42,000 in one year.
“Adding $30,000 to $40,000 to one’s base pay, in direct violation of the overtime policy, has a long-lasting cost to the taxpayers of our community and I say enough is enough,” Barlow said. “I can’t help but feel as though the taxpayers have been ripped off by a group that is now trying to engender public sympathy in the face of staff reductions that are, quite frankly, long overdue.”
The Common Council has scheduled a public hearing on the 2017 budget for Monday, August 22, at 7:10 p.m. at City Hall.