Firefighters union files complaint with state department of labor

The Ridgefield firefighters union local has filed a complaint with the state Department of Labor objecting to changes in procedures for calling in off-duty paid firefighters, and asking the state Board of Labor Relations to order the town to negotiate the changes with the union.

The “prohibited practice complaint” concerns changes to the “SOP” — standard operating procedure — that date back to Feb. 6. It was signed by Ridgefield firefighter Ed Marchitto, president of Local 1739, International Association of Firefighters.

“Local 1739 feels this SOP threatens the health and safety of its members and is a change in working conditions that the town has not negotiated,” the complaint reads.

The new procedure “changed a long-standing practice” of calling in off-duty firefighters “when on-duty units are unavailable due to call volume,” Marchitto wrote.

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said the town hadn’t met with the union over the complaint, and hadn’t been informed by the state.

“No meetings, no discussions have taken place. We get contacted by the state,” he said.

He offered some explanation of the changes to call-in procedures. The career department has 34 members, excluding the chief, assistant chief, fire marshal, and a longtime administrative worker. The firefighters work in 24-hour shifts. It is a requirement that two firefighters go out on any vehicle that leaves a fire station.

“Due to this being an active case, with possible negotiation implications, I will be limited with my remarks,” Marconi said.

There had been a six-man minimum shift — three at the Catoonah station and two in Ridgebury. Starting in 2017, the selectmen began a trial of an eight-man minimum shift, with six at Catoonah and two in Ridgebury.

With six firefighters on, only three vehicles could be out. But with eight paid men on duty, all four could go out.

“The old way, when all six were occupied, we’d tone out for additional paid firefighters to come to firehouse,” Marconi said.