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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Firefighter union brings in big guns

NEWTON

Some big guns in organized labor turned out for the Newton Fire Fighters Local 863 today as they demonstrated in front of City Hall.

Among them were Harold Schaitberger, general president of the International Association of Fire Fighters; Robert Haines, Massachusetts AFL-CIO president; and Robert McCarthy, president of the Professional Fire Fighters of Massachusetts.

About 200 firefighters heard the labor leaders say that they had never seen as dire a situation for firefighters as in Newton, where they have not had a pay raise in 3 ˝ years.

McCarthy said union members “will not be treated like children.”

He was referring to a sick-leave policy that requires union members to prove their absences for illness are legitimate.

Firefighters from as far away as Attleboro and Holbrook also came to support the Newton union. They held signs decrying Mayor David Cohen(cq) for the contract delay.

In a press conference earlier in the day, Cohen said he had offered firefighters 12 different contracts, while they have offered none that “the city could reasonably be expected to sign.”

He said their proposal would give firefighters three “free” sick tours a year, meaning they could claim they were sick and take three 24-hour shifts off, and the city would be powerless to verify the illness.

Enforcing the sick leave policy for firefighters has saved $750,000 per year, he said.

-- Connie Paige

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