Judge denies Ogdensburg firefighters union's request to halt layoffs through arbitration process
BY JIMMY LAWTON
North Country This Week
OGDENSBURG – An injunction that would allow laid-off firefighters to continue working as the city and union hash out a deal in arbitration has been denied.
“The court concludes any arbitration award which might later be rendered in the Union's favor will not be rendered ineffectual by the failure to grant a preliminary injunction in this special proceeding. If the Union is successful, harm to the Union or its members may be remedied by the awards of reinstatement, back pay, and accrued but unpaid benefits,” Judge Mary Farley said in her order.At a hearing held Thursday, the city and union attorneys pleaded their cases in front of Supreme Court Judge Mary Farley. The ruling was issued Monday, Jan. 11.
Ogdensburg Fire Union Local 1799 had sought to reinstate members who were laid off in a manner they say violates their existing contract with the city. The city argued that the contract was not sustainable and could not bar the city from reducing staff.
The matter is likely to head to arbitration, but details on where that process is at have not been made public.
In her ruling, Judge Farley notes that burden is heavy and lies with the movant, which in this case is the union.
Farley said the union did not meet the burden of showing that any award though arbitration would be rendered ineffectual by denial of a preliminary injunction.
In regard to the “Likelihood of Success on the Merits,” which is a legal factor in determining her decision, Judge Farley also ruled the union did not make a “strong showing” by “clear and convincing evidence” of the likelihood of success on the merits.
Farley also factored potential irreparable harm into her decision.
“Although the city’s anticipated actions may not eliminate the possibility of irreparable harm resulting from the Union’s health and safety concerns, the Union has not shown the possibility of harm to be ‘imminent, not remove or speculative.”
In regard to balancing the equities, Farley said the union fell short of tipping the balance of equities in its favor.
“The harm to the union and its members – loss of employment with benefits, as well as potential increase in personal risk for those who continue to work under reduced staffing – is severe. Nonetheless, the court must conclude that the union has not carried its burden of showing the equities sufficiently tip in its favor to merit a preliminary injunction here,” she said.