The City of Morgantown is getting a lesson in the importance of appearances.
International Association of Firefighters Local 313 has accused the city of retaliating against Morgantown’s firefighters by cutting the department’s shift differential after the firefighters union rejected a settlement for holiday backpay.
We are not taking sides, and we will leave it to the courts to determine if the city was acting out of vengeance or not.
Governance is as much about the optics of an action as it is about its reasoning or its purpose. And the city made some mistakes that are making it look bad:
◘ The timing. It was a poor choice to announce a cut to firefighters’ shift differential (a slight increase in per hour pay to make undesirable shifts, such as afternoon and night shifts, more attractive) not long after the firefighters union declined to settle a lawsuit with the city.
◘ The who. The city’s police, public works and parking authority employees also qualify for shift differential, but, so far, only the fire department has experienced a cut. It gives the appearance of singling out the MFD.
◘ The why — or lack thereof. Representatives of the city were pretty tight-lipped when the story first broke, waiting several days before explaining why there was a problem with the fire department’s use of shift diff.
Appearances are important, and in that regard, the city has made some pretty big blunders. Hopefully, Morgantown officials will learn from their mistakes and, in the future, won’t let the optics of a situation undermine its legitimacy.