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VIDEO: New London Firefighters Will Be Laid Off Today

Council unanimously tables decision on a tentative agreement with the firefighters' union; 24 layoffs go into effect on Tuesday evening

Twenty-four members of the are scheduled to lose their jobs on Tuesday evening following a City Council vote to table a tentative agreement with the fire union.

The council unanimously voted to table the agreement. The decision follows two July 2 votes in which the council . Mayor Daryl Finizio said the layoffs will go into effect at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday in order to balance the department’s approved budget for the 2013 fiscal year.

"I was completely outraged. It's completely ridiculous what the men have been through," said Rocco Basilica, president of the New London Firefighters Local 1522.

The details of the agreement have not been publicly released, but Basilica said it includes reducing the staffing levels per shift from 18 to 16 at a savings of $750,000 per year plus $463,000 in overtime. Firefighters would also forfeit two raises totaling 4.25 percent and give up nine positions with no layoffs.

The agreement was negotiated between Finizio’s administration and the union. Under the budget approved by the City Council, Finizio initially said it would be necessary to . The council initially , including administrative salaries, to increase the department’s budget. It later agreed to following and announcement that the administration had reached a tentative agreement with the union.  

Proponents of the agreement said it would make the department more competitive by implementing a pension system, allowing older firefighters to retire and newer firefighters to be retained. Councilors opposed to the agreement said they had not received assurances that it would lead to long-term savings.

Support for the agreement

Prior to the council meeting, members of the New London union and other firefighters’ unions from across the state rallied in front of . Layoffs will take place based on which employees were hired last, and the affected men wore shirts bearing the number signifying their order of seniority.

“The guys are constantly rising to the challenge, despite what’s going on,” said Lt. Jeffrey Rheaume. “But they’re fearful about being laid off and what it would mean for the department and the city.”

Firefighter Mike Leonard said the agreement would correct issues with the department’s retirement system. He said the firefighters do not receive Social Security, and that layoffs would leave a workforce of people in their 50s and 60s who would be more vulnerable to medical issues.

“We’re going to in a few weeks here, it looks like, and we need to save money,” said Leonard.

Lt. Jonathan Paige, vice president of the union, said the agreement would allow older firefighters to retire and have the Connecticut Municipal Employees Retirement System absorb injury costs. Firefighter Kevin Campbell, one of the employees who will lose his job, said the current system requires New London firefighters to work until age 65. He said the agreement would help retain younger firefighters, who often leave to join departments with better benefits, and that this would allow the department to improve its diversity as well.

Employees also said the layoffs would have a detrimental effect on the department’s operations. Deputy Chief Henry Kydd said he thinks response times will increase and residents and firefighters will be at risk.

“I never thought in my life I’d see what is happening here,” he said. “It’s disgusting.”

Basilica said the layoffs affect about 40 percent of the department’s workforce. One of the 25 people who received a pink slip has since left the department. Lt. Roger Tompkins said the remaining firefighters will face increased pressure and lengthy shifts. Tompkins said the department’s expenditures would also increase due to additional overtime costs.

“There’s no need for them not to agree,” he said.

Council response

Councilor Adam Sprecace said he thought the agreement would result in savings for the 2013 fiscal year, but was not convinced that it would carry over to additional years. He said he was also disappointed that the council did not have a role in the bargaining process, and felt there had been little time to review the agreement.

“What I’m seeing is city after city going bankrupt, and they’re going bankrupt in part due to ageements like this,” he said.

Sprecace also said he thought Finizio was trying to force action on the issue due to the threat of layoffs. He said he considers that there is enough money in the fire department’s budget to defer the layoffs for an additional 10 months.

“I didn’t run for office to be a rubber stamp,” he said. “If I have concerns, I’m going to relay them and I’m going to act on them. If I don’t get them addressed, I’m going to act another way. And to vote with a gun to my head is not something I’ll ever do.”

Councilor John Maynard criticized the actions of Finizio and Council President Michael Passero, accusing them of striking a deal to override Finizio’s veto. Maynard said the council’s original transfer of funds from other areas would have avoided the layoffs.

 “You need to be looking at these individuals that took the money out of the fire department and put it back in the mayor’s office, not me,” he said.

Councilor Anthony Nolan said he has talked with Finance Director Jeff Smith and others involved in the process, and considered that the agreement would result in savings continuing beyond the 2013 fiscal year.

“Some of you told me that well, you’re losing votes,” he said. “Well, I was voted in to do what I thought was in the best interests in the city. So if losing your vote is because of something I think is in the best interests of the city, take your vote.”

Councilor Donald Macrino also supported the agreement, saying the city could renegotiate it after a year if they determined that there were unanticipated costs involved.

“It at least appears to me at this point that this deal can be successfully struck and preserve the integrity of our tax base and the city of New London,” he said.

Passero continued to recuse himself from votes on the issue since he is employed as a New London firefighter. Before leaving the chambers, however, he gave a brief statement.

“I only hope that we can resolve the issue,” he said. “I believe we will resolve the issue. We’ve been through difficult times in this city before. We’ve worked together, we’ve come together, we’ve disagreed, and we’ll come together again. So we will overcome this issue.”

Council President Pro Tempore Wade Hyslop, who previously supported the agreement, was absent due to a medical issue. The remaining councilors unanimously accepted a motion by Macrino to table the question.

Finizio statement

After meeting with Basilica and Kydd, Finizio spoke to firefighters and their families outside his office. He apologized on behalf of the city for the anxiety the employees have faced.

“The City Council has failed to act on a very reasonable agreement that the city reached in good faith with our fire union,” he said. “This agreement saved the city all necessary funds to avoid all layoffs, generate significant savings, and give our firefighters the pension that they deserve.”

Finizio said that he met with Fire Chief Ron Samul, Chief Administrative Officer Jane Glover, and others and came to the conclusion that the layoffs would go into effect if the council did not approve the agreement.

“This is not a matter of financial realities. This is not a matter of confusion. This is, simply put, a matter of politics,” he said. “But the city administration in a tough budget with no reserves with no fund balance cannot play politics anymore.”

Finizio said his administration will work with the councilors and union as soon as possible in an attempt to avoid the layoffs.

“This is a tragic result for the city of New London that I hope in time can be resolved,” he said.

 

9:25 p.m. update

Twenty-four layoffs in the will go into effect at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday following the City Council's decision to table a tentative agreement with the firefighters' union.

Mayor Daryl Finizio accused the council of political posturing in the decision. He said councilors have had adequate time to review the agreement and that the layoffs in the department have been twice postponed while the administration negotiated with the union. He said the layoffs will go into effect in order to balance the department's 2013 fiscal year budget.

"I was completely outraged. It's completely ridiculous what the men have been through," said Rocco Basilica, president of the New London Firefighters Local 1522.

The details of the agreement have not been publicly released, but Basilica said it includes reducing the staffing levels per shift from 18 to 16 at a savings of $750,000 per year plus $463,000 in overtime. Firefighters would also forfeit two raises totaling 4.25 percent and give up nine positions with no layoffs.

Several members of the firefighters' union spoke in favor of the agreement, saying it would create a pension plan allowing older firefighters to retire. They said this would help with the retention of younger firefighters and help to make the department more diverse.

Opponents said they did not think there was sufficient information on whether the agreement would result in long-term savings.

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On July 2, council approval of the agreement . Councilors who opposed the agreement said they felt they had not had sufficient time to review the agreement and expressed concerns over whether transferring the department to the Municipal Employees Retirement Fund would result in increased costs to the city. Council President Michael Passero, who is employed as a firefighter, recused himself from the vote.

Twenty-five layoffs were scheduled to go into effect in the fire department on July 3. Finizio put these on hold for two weeks, asking the council to review the agreement and meet with his administration on any concerns before reconsidering the matter at tonight’s meeting.

A full story will be posted this evening.

 

Original breaking news

The New London City Council tabled a vote to accept a tentative agreement with the firefighters' union, and 25 firefighters are set to be laid off as of 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The story will be updated soon.

Michael Casteel July 17, 2012 at 03:56 PM
What a clown circus! Sadly it seems impossible to obtain any facts about the financial situation of New London, other than it is a mess. Some thoughts: New London taxpayers cannot afford another big tax increase. Property values are already collapsing, due in large part to crushing taxes (and lousy schools). The number one cause of fiscal problems in New London is the huge number of non-taxpaying public housing units and multifamily units that yield far less in tax revenues than they use in services. It is time to tell surrounding towns, the State of Connecticut and the Federal government that it they want New London to house the poor of New London County they are going to have to help fund the city - to a far greater extent than they do now. In addition the City needs to establish a property tax rate for multifamily housing that reflects the fact that these are commercial properties that profit landlords. The owners of single family homes are subsidizing the profits of these landlords. Something is very wrong when the owner of a modest single family home pays more in taxes than the owner of a three family house which may have as many as 20 residents, 10 of them school age children at a cost to the City of $15,000 each. In the short term - Mr. Finizio should resign, along with the entire City Council. Voters could then elect a new government. This group has lost the confidence of citizens and employees. I have predicted for years NL would go bankrupt, it seems nigh.
William Desmond July 17, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Mike Get a grip on life and on reality. The council did not vote for layoffs. The council tabled the agenda item. If you were there and paid attention the council had possible solutions and the city lawyer said they could not discuss the solutions. It looks like the mayor and the lawyer(who is appointed by the mayor) do not want this to be resolved. Why not sit and talk as adults? the council wanted to do that last night in an executive session, mayor and his boys say NO!. Where is the problem? The mayor needs to go home put his big boy pants on and sit down with the council and the fire fighter's union and work this out. It cannot and will not be resolved unless all parties sit and work it out.
William Desmond July 17, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Tom, we will not know if there is any real substance until there is full disclosure and transparency. The secrecy is the culprit here. The councilors cannot speak about the details and their reasons because of the secrecy or as the mayor calls it "confidentiality". Wait until the facts are all out.
David Irons July 17, 2012 at 05:10 PM
William, I think the problem may be that the mayor doesn't own any "big boy pants". He has yet to show his Mommy that he is deserving of any.
William Desmond July 17, 2012 at 05:14 PM
Al, it looked last night like one councilor wanted to work out a deal with a motion to fix all this and the other councilors all said they would support the motion. So the problem is not the council. Look at the mayor's office.
Debbie July 17, 2012 at 05:25 PM
As a longtime resident taxpayer in New London, City Councils remember to "stand your ground" as quoted by one of your own members Councilman Hyslop. Residents will support you regardless of the many cutbacks needed within all city departments. Peace and blessings.
rob July 17, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Debbie, Hope you can "stand your ground" when your house floods, catches on fire or you take your last gasp of air and there aren't enough safety personnel to get to you. Oh yeah, peace and blessings
jim mcnally July 17, 2012 at 07:05 PM
wow see some still spewing wrong or in accurate information here, just to clarify somethings first the agreement on pension clearly states tha any member with outstanding loan's on their 401 account "SHALL" (contract wording which means MUST) repay before going into new plan. Second for the person who questioned about the dept. going for 401 instead of same plan as the police took, the answer is they were left with very little choice as unlike police the fire dept. had several pensions not by choice but by city design that being the city changed plans and firefighters had no say the city ended the original non-contributory plan May 1971 any new hires were thrown into a black hole until city came up with another plan which took aprox. 6 years or more than came out with contributory plan identical to original except now members paid 6% into plan (by the way anyone hired while in the dark had no pension as promised nor were they having social security tax's taken out either which for fire and police is extremly costly as they do not pay into social security system as do all other city employee's a clause fed. gov't allowed city's to do) so to get into plan as police did every member in union had to go into it too and as there were over a dozen non-contributory members each with over 25 years would have been way expensive for city to put them into same plan so only option was 401 or stay in the horrible city plan. So they had really no other choice.
FDNL July 17, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Facts we contribute 7% the city contributes 9.5% prior to this 401 plan we were in the city contributory pension plan, we paid 6% the city paid 12%. Now remember we don't pay SS tax that means the city saves 6.45% and over 7% for those who don't pay into Medicare. Windfall Elimination Provision http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html#a0=0 This effects everyone who does not pay SS but does on a part time job as most all us have. Depending on how much you earn on your part time job your SS benefit will be REDUCED up to 60% and at a minimum of 10% if you have 30 YEARS of substantial earnings on you part time job that's it, your benefit will never be more than 90%. To have 2012 count as a substantial year you better earn at least 20,475.00 on your part time job. That's a 40 hr week full time job at $9.84. Take a look at the web site the graph and how it all works is there http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html#a0=3 I chose this job it's what I wanted, and if one night it cost me my life so that you a taxpayer might live then I've done all I can, no regrets it's how we all are. Judge me when your down and you look up and see me there to save you.
notanative July 17, 2012 at 07:57 PM
well, Dannyboy guess you are wrong.....they hand in their badges and equiptment at 4 p.m. today
notanative July 17, 2012 at 08:06 PM
yup, tabling the vote is certainly "standing your ground"!
Borninnl July 18, 2012 at 03:46 AM
Firefighters and your wives please stop. You are not fooling anyone by combining the issues, and that is how you are losing any sympathy. No one wants to see any layoffs, and the council has made that clear. When it comes to your pension that is a whole different story. With the state of the economy who gets to choose a different pension, one you voted on and the one that was in place when you took the job. When the mayor first threatened layoffs all of you kept saying if they go from 18 to 16 it will put us and the public in danger, but now that is all right to do as long as you get your pension.
Rick Lushay July 18, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Excellent prediction!
Rick Lushay July 18, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Please give me a new and better pension plan because the one I chose before is not as good as I thought it would be. I want more and I want soneone else to pay for it. Does this plea by the firefighters, their family and friends buy any sympathy with the voters and taxpayers?
jim mcnally July 19, 2012 at 01:32 PM
Rick maybe you should know the whole picture before you attempt to insult those of us here. First I know the councilors are watching these post's so here are a few questions for them to answer to help enlighten the viewer's. But bet not one will have the guts to do so. 1. Were the firefighgter's not and still are working under an existing 5 year contract? 2. Were they not forced into the position they now find themselves with threats and intimidations of layoff's if they do not agree to reduced manning in which contract calls for 18 but city demanded 16? 3. DOES REDUCING THIS NUMBER IN-DANGER BOTH THE FIREFIGHTER'S AS WELL AS THE TAXPAYER'S? 4. Did the firefighters give up one negotiated pay raise as some taxypayers think in fact how many did they give up not only in this 5 year contract but the last several one's to help the taxpayer's of new london?? 5. Care to tell the taxpayer's just how wonderful the city pension plan really is, especially for retired fire and police oh and dont forget to tell the taxpayers that unlike most city employee's in said plan also paid into social security thus they get a small city pension plus social security ALL except the fire and police so please be sure to POINT that out to the taxpayers.6. So if the city was demanding or extortinng so much they wanted to improve there pension in return except certain councilors decided to play political football instead correct? Like stated doubt we will get reply from councilors here but why?????????
Luis Smart July 19, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Jim, Rick still has it correct, the NLFF's are requesting a new pesnion, a better pension than the one they have(many of us have no pension plan). The NLFF's want this at an increased cost over the current pension plan with no city control over future costs of the pension plan under MERS. This is a great deal for the NLFF's not such a good deal for the people that must pay for the plan as we go forward. Jim, do you know how much the costs to taxpayers have escalated in the last 10 years for MERS participants? Over the last 20 years? I suspect not, I suspect that you do not care and neither do the NLFF's. They only care about what they will reap from such a move. This want from the NLFF's cannot be financially absorbed by the New London taxpayers at this time. Move beyond that issue and be happy that you even have a pension plan. Many employers and municipalities are moving away from pension plans all together. Maybe that should be teh direction that the New London taxpayers explore. The savings would be great.
Amanda Holt July 19, 2012 at 05:13 PM
@luis smart- Your a very hateful and jealous person with no sort of humanity... I am sure you sit on your ass all day and let the "tax" payers of connecticut pay your bills for you. I suspect you werent fast enough to make the police exam, or maybe you didnt reach far enough on the sit on reach.. and you definitly dont have the balls to run into a burning building... I suspect you have been laid off recently from Foxwoods and have no education to get another job or motivation....
jim mcnally July 19, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Rick I am now in city pension system and know.first hand how bad it is even worse for spouse's especially if you were a firefighter or police officer, something I dare say you know nothing about or care to for that matter but your not the only one city council knows quit well especially the one who has been involved in city politics a long time even once as mayor if memory serves me correct. Now you want to see them stripped bare in public for doing what their suppose to do that being negotiate in good faith, the asked for much and got much with contract that has been in place now want more only through deception and lies so to give more they negotiated the new pension now that they can finally get into plan, and you want to attack them for it? I personally think you should be ashamed for your above comment.
jim mcnally July 19, 2012 at 05:40 PM
Sorry Rick meant Luis. Also in last comment should read "the city asked much" but cell phone has very small key board and did not notice laps in statement.
jim mcnally July 19, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Also Luis you seem to know alot about rising cost so let me paint you a picture suppose you were a new London firefighter and retired 20 years ago with a 10 thousand a year pension from New London and today in 2012 he is still getting 10 thousand a year to live on or excuse me no one can live on ten thousand a year in 2012 now can they Luis sounds like servitude to me would you agree now if this individual was not able to qualify for social security because taxpayers did not like seeing their firefighters or police working second jobs because taxpayers felt they were being greedy now only have that millionaire pension of 10 thousand to live on. Explain to us that improving their pension is being greedy, yes they went with 401 because only option open to them to get anything better than city plan. You want to complain about something think about you city pensioners the firefighters do and don't want that for them and their families, can you still blame them now?
Luis Smart July 19, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Amanda, you seem so entrenched in attacking others, you need some sensitivity training. Do you even live in New London? Fact is that your pleas and cries that the poor FF'sand their families are having such a difficult time has only helped the otherside. My time as a DMV employee has nothing to do with this nor does my time as a security officer at foxwoods. In neither situation would I think that someone elses pain in a situation was more difficult than mine. You and your cronies have demonstrated no sort of humanity, not I. I see that all families involved in layoff either threatened of actually gone through with face the same feelings and stress, this is not only a reality for New London FF's.
Luis Smart July 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
Jim, are you willing to pay for the improvements that you seek? Or do you expect someone else to pay? Simple concept, the taxpayers cannot afford what the NLFF's demand. Timing is everything. What makes this especially bad for the NLFF's is that they were once in the plan they now demand and opted out for what they thought was more lucrative for them. Most employers would not even consider it and just tell the employees to stick with what they have and wanted.
Carol D. Fox July 19, 2012 at 08:49 PM
Amanda: Everyone is entitled to an opinion whether you agree with it or not. By insulting someone for their opinion only shows how petty and small you are.
jim mcnally July 19, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Well Luis or should I say councillor, you seem to know a great deal here you know leaving 401 to get into state has to be done through a defined plan which in this case is more paperwork then anything else but you failed to address any questions from my above comment, it clearly would show why they seek the saftey of state plan, yes they left it because saw how badly city treats its retired workers and especially the retired public saftey officers just as police union jumped to plan asap and it appears you already know this well but dodge the issue. The councilors knew this was on table with this treat of layoffs but apparently gave blessing till they got in spotlight to make grandstand play. But again respond to my questions above about how badly retirees have then you will have your answer as to why they want to improve theirs which is just as bad or worse now than city if possible, correct councillor?
Amanda Holt July 19, 2012 at 11:46 PM
I'll share what i dealt with last saturday at 430pm. I was meeting my NLFF at home after his shift.... I waited TWO HOURS and still no FF. My sister called and told me about the fire on GRAND ST So then I figured he had been held over.. 20 minutes later i get a call from another firemans number, MY HEART DROPPED. My FF wasn't calling me, he was no where to be found two hours after his shift.... I thought the worst, I almost didn't even want to pick up the phone for fear of what happened. as i answered the phone i thought to myself, " If he is hurt, god help this city because all they have cared about is money, instead of caring about my ff who puts his damn life on the line everyday..... " when i answered the phone. My FF said "babe i was at the hospital, i'm ok, i got burned......" NO MATTER HOW BAD HE WAS BURNED OR NOT, HE WAS STILL TAKEN TO THE HOSPITAL VIA AMBULANCE AND HE WAS TREATED THERE FOR A BURN....... That didn't make the paper did it ???? People dont know about that, do they ??? BECAUSE FDNL doesn't brag, they dont show boat.How many of you can say you set at home waiting for a loved one to find out they got hurt at work..... not a lot of you...... Its the worst feeling in the world. So next time you want to pick on people that could one day save your life and lose their own doing it, think about your jobs and what you do everyday, do you risk your families happiness/future every single second your at your job? I sure dont..... Put yourself in their boots!
Paul July 20, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Jim, I read your comments and Im sure you have something to say but I cant understand them....try proofreading them before you hit submit
Paul July 20, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Amanda pls thank your FF for his service.. However, your FF is not the only one that has a dangerous job . A lot of people do. More than you think..He chose to be a fireman and you chose to be a FF significant other. There are no surprises here to either of you...I saw a number of friends(who didnt chose to be there) in Nam that didnt make it home and I NEVER NEVER heard their wives whinning like you and from where I sit they had more reason to. Nobody is trying to kill your FF...YOU CHOSE THIS LIFE AS DID YOUR FF...Thank him again but get a hold of yourself
jim mcnally July 20, 2012 at 03:34 AM
Paul thank you for response to my statementbut must understand when responding to councillor or their mouthpieces you have to talk their language. As for your going after ff and family please note many ARE VETS AND I PAST COMMANDER POST 9 NEW LONDON and resent your comment!
Dannyboy July 21, 2012 at 12:01 PM
notanative: do I get an apolgy now. akunamatada my friend
Dannyboy July 26, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Hi Rob. How many layoffs have there been so far if I am wrong. Yup just what I said. A scare tactic that never was going to happen.

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