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Union lawyer: Holiday dispute one step closer to resolution

Morgantown appears ready to resolve part of a dispute it has with its paid firefighters.

But a lawyer for the union says it’s just a “Band-Aid” and there’s more to be done.

A resolution on Morgantown City Council’s agenda for tonight will give Morgantown’s firefighters 24 hours of time off for the holidays in 2020, if it passes.

In June, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313, Jayson Nicewarner and 57 other firefighters filed a lawsuit against the city, alleging they weren’t being properly compensated for working on holidays.

“It’s a step in the right direction,” attorney Teresa Toriseva said.

However, the resolution is just one step in resolving the issues the lawsuit brings. It does not address the past and only covers 2020, making it a “Band-Aid” solution, she said.

Morgantown Communications Manager Andrew Stacy said, “Each firefighter would receive 168 hours of paid leave in addition to the 168 hours of paid leave already accrued to them this year, for a total of 336 hours of paid leave, which is equivalent to 24 hours of paid leave accrued for each of the 14 civil service holidays this calendar year.”

If the resolution passes, those hours will immediately be given to each firefighter and be available for use, the resolution states.

The Dominion Post contacted Nicewarner to discuss the resolution, but he was on shift and said he couldn’t discuss the matter while on duty.

The resolution acknowledges the issues in the lawsuit can’t be solved only by City Council, but the council and city manager want to establish “interim measures designed to ensure City firefighters recognize that their contributions are valued.”

State code dictates compensation for holiday shifts. If a firefighter works on a legal holiday, or if the holiday falls on the firefighter’s day off, the firefighter is entitled to equivalent time off on another day or pay at time-and-a-half.

Traditionally, Morgantown has compensated with time off, rather than extra pay, the resolution states.

“Any other claims, including claims that any individual firefighter is entitled to additional paid leave or additional pay in past years, is still to be determined in litigation,” Stacy said.

Toriseva said she looks forward to working with the city to resolve the rest of the issues.

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