Cohoes fire union and mayor battle over department promotions

August 15, 2019 11:21 PM

COHOES – The local firefighters union in Cohoes and Mayor Shawn Morse continue to battle it out over promotions within the fire department. It comes after a heated meeting on Monday.

Monday at a Civil Service Commission meeting, Morse wanted to discuss with the commission changes to requirements for promotions. Instead of having to have three years of experience as a lieutenant before a firefighter could become captain, Morse wanted to discuss making it one year. He said he had concerns about filling high ranking positions with people retiring. He said there isn’t a big enough pool of people to choose from.

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However, the union said one year experience isn’t enough. They said the problem of why there isn’t enough people to promote is because the city hasn’t given a civil service test to become a lieutenant or captain in the past four years.

Mayor Morse and the union were meant to discuss the issue over the course of this week. And that included talking about promoting someone off the current list of qualified firefighters. The list is set to expire on Friday, and the department is down a captain.

"If you're not promoting now you have a captain’s spot that's open, which now causes officer overtime,” explained President of the local 2562 Firefighters Union Brian Bullock.

Morse said he decided Tuesday to just promote everyone on the list, he said he thought everyone would be happy. It would mean it would fill the one vacant captain position and it would also create four new lieutenant positions. However, the union said that isn’t aloud.

"Our contract states that each platoon, there's four platoons and each platoon would have one captain and one lieutenant so adding another layer of lieutenants is not in our contract,” said Bullock.

That’s when the union threatened an injunction to stop the proposal of the new hires. Morse said when lawyers were being potentially brought in, that's when he said he decided he was done negotiating and wouldn’t promote anyone on the list.

“I've never seen a union in my life get upset about offering opportunities to their members to be promoted,” said Morse on Monday. “It's baffling to me.

The union said it’s not against promotions.

"Do it the right way, again he was union president for many years, he understands that there are contractual means that need to be addressed,” said Union Vice President Robert Johnson.

The union is hoping Mayor Morse decides in the end to at least fill the vacant captain’s position off the list set to expire Friday.

"There's a man, a lieutenant now that has been here 28 years, 16 years as lieutenant who more than deserved the position and to once again tell him no you're not getting, it's just not right,” said Bullock.

If Morse does not promote anyone, then that position will remain vacant for likely a year because that’s when the civil service test will be given out again.

Morse said he only has a few months left in office and he’d rather focus on more important issue than fight with the union.


Emily De Vito

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