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Arbitrators Rule in Favor of City in Firefighters Contract Dispute

By Mark Wozniak and Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – A three-member arbitration panel has ruled that Buffalo firefighters no longer must be paid the same amount of money as their police counterparts, although they did approve $3,000 retroactive raises.

But those raises will not be implemented, according to the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority. The control board says its wage freeze supercedes the raises.

Union president Joseph Foley says the arbitrator broke a pay parity that dates back nearly 40 years.

"We believe our services are just as valuable to the city as the police department's are," Foley said. "We believe we should be treated equally."

If allowed by the control board, the raises would have closed the gap between police and firefighter salaries by about half. In a late afternoon press conference Monday, Mayor Masiello said the decision was revolutionary, noting it encourages efficiency in the department.

But the mayor denied charges that the city values firefighters less than police officers, noting that the police raises in their last contract were balanced by major union concessions.