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Watertown's break with firefighter contract upheld

Julia Botero
WRVO News File Photo

A judge is upholding the city of Watertown's decision to break its contract with the local firefighter union.

City leaders opted last month to stop paying overtime if one to two firefighters call out sick. That can cause the minimum number of employees on a given shift at the fire department to drop from 15 to 13, which violates the union's contract. Watertown City Manager Sharon Addison says the decision allows the city to save money.

"I do think that the percentage of overtime paid out due to the use of excessive sick leave runs the city about 30 percent of the total overtime costs," Addison said. "In addition, the city argues that the minimum manning clauses are essentially a no-layoff clause and therefore are not legal."

Watertown and the local firefighter union have been in a legal battle over a new contract for years. Two newly elected members of the city council have been critical of the city's approach to the issue, and have suggested that they may vote to reverse the city's overtime decision when they assume office next month.

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.