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Morgantown, firefighters resolve pay dispute

MORGANTOWN — Friday evening, members of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313 and The City of Morgantown jointly announced they resolved the firefighters’ claim that they were entitled shift differential pay, pending approval of terms by Morgantown City Council.

In a press release, Morgantown stated the parties will release a joint statement after council and the firefighters approve the deal.

Teresa Toriseva, attorney for Local 313, confirmed the joint statement and said additional details will be jointly released.

The resolution comes three days after Morgantown filed a lawsuit in Monongalia County Circuit Court in an attempt to stop an evidentiary hearing by the fire civil service commission May 12 over the issue.

The dispute started when a review of Morgantown’s personnel rules revealed the shift differential rules — which were written with eight hour shifts in mind — were being incorrectly applied to firefighters who work 24-hour shifts. City Manager Kim Haws announced the change, which resulted in a reduction of pay of about $2,000 a year for each firefighter in an internal memo.

However, for as long as anyone in the department can remember, firefighters have received the shift differential pay, which is a small hourly bonus for employees who work the afternoon or evening shifts.

Firefighters called the pay reduction retaliation, as it only affected them and, just weeks before, they rejected a $1.7 million settlement offer from the city.

The city insisted it was only enforcing the rules as written and legal action was taken through the fire civil service commission. The commission held an emergency hearing April 14, when it determined it did have the power to hold a hearing about the pay reduction. Morgantown argued the change was a general pay reduction and not something the commission had the power to change. Toriseva argued it was in the commission’s power.

Ultimately, the fire civil service commission voted 3-0 to hold the hearing May 12. That led to the city’s lawsuit to try and stop it May 4 and now the resolution of the dispute May 7.

However, the holiday pay lawsuit filed by Local 313 against Morgantown in June 2019 over incorrect compensation for working on holidays is still ongoing. The city fixed the issue after the lawsuit was filed but the issue of back wages owed had not been decided.

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