Is town still seeking deal with outside FD?


They thought they were on the same page with a new labor pact but now Harrison and the firefighters union aren’t so sure and, in fact, the union is balking at the deal.

On Oct. 20, the Harrison Town Council voted to approve a new contract with FMBA Local 22. That agreement provides no raises for 2016 or 2017 and just 1% for 2018 and more steps for new hires to reach top pay but also improved overtime and acting pay protocol.

Weak as it was, still, union members figured they’d dodged two bullets by getting a deal that scrapped a proposal for a 56-hour work week, and, potentially even worse, a takeover of the Harrison Fire Department by Newark.

It is the latter notion that is referenced in the language of the Memorandum of Agreement outlining contract terms to which the union is strenuously objecting and wants out altogether.

From the union’s perspective, the most disturbing section notes that Harrison acknowledged that, as per a Sept. 7 letter from the state Division of Local Government Services, getting $1.36 million in state transitional aid for 2016 “was contingent upon the Town either negotiating to the Division’s satisfaction a contract with Newark to provide firefighting services or a collectively bargained agreement with [Local 22] that will achieve substantially similar cost savings.”

Eric Hausmann, president of Local 22, said his perception is that the town and/or state is “still pursuing the Newark deal” and “as long as that language is still in the MUA, we’re not going to sign it.

“We agreed to a list of givebacks and now the state is changing the deal,” he added.

Hausmann griped that there were “several ‘whereas’ clauses” contained in the agreement to which he objected but he said the section dealing with the potential Newark takeover “is the primary one” rankling him.

What worries Hausmann and his 29 members is whether they would face the loss of their jobs under a scenario in which Newark would take over the operation of firefighting services in Harrison.

Local 22 was represented, in part, in its bargaining with the town by attorney Lynsey Stehling of the Monroe Township law firm of Daniel Zirrith LLC.

Asked about the contractual dilemma, town attorney Paul Zarbetski said that Harrison “is discharging its obligations” by having “ongoing discussions” with Local Government Services on the possibility of negotiating a “shared services agreement” with Newark for fire protection.

And, Zarbetski added, “The town has kept the union apprised of every step” of that process.

Asked about the union’s fear that members could be terminated and would have to reapply for jobs under a Newark-led fire department, Zarbetski said that, “we haven’t received a formal offer from Newark saying that ‘you have to lay off’ current employees.”

If it came to the town having to accept some form of Newark taking control of Harrison firefighting services, it would have to be a situation where “Newark can cover Harrison under a scenario where Harrison can save significant money and Newark [which also receives special state aid] would also have to save,” Zarbetski said.

How that would happen is still up in the air.

Meanwhile, Harrison is continuing to negotiate with members of PBA Local 22, which represents the rank-and-file police officers, on a new contract and “will be starting any day now” with PBA Local 22A, which bargains for police superiors, Zarbetski said.


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