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June 25, 2024
10 injured Newburgh ex-firefighters say pay was illegally cut!! 2-8-12
Updated On: Feb 08, 2012

10 injured Newburgh ex-firefighters say pay was illegally cut

By Doyle Murphy
Times Herald-Record
Published: 2:00 AM - 02/08/12

CITY OF NEWBURGH — Ten injured retired Newburgh firefighters say the city illegally cut their pay when it negotiated salary cuts with active-duty firefighters.
The city notified the men by letter in January 2011 that their checks would be adjusted to match a new contract between the city and IAFF Local 589, the union that represents city firefighters. The union had agreed to temporary 5 percent salary decreases.
Attorney Stewart Rosenwasser, who is representing the injured firefighters, said his clients are separate from the union and never agreed to any new deal.
"You cannot bargain away our rights," Rosenwasser said.
Each of the firefighters retired as a result of injuries, earning state retirement benefits.
Under the law, the city has to make up the difference between the state payments and what the men would have received as their regular salaries.
Rosenwasser represented nearly the same group of firefighters in a previous lawsuit, winning a judgment that required the city to pay them longevity increases.
Rosenwasser said their current argument is supported by state law that treats injured firefighters as a separate class.
The city tried to get the case thrown out, but Orange County Judge Lawrence Ecker denied the motion in January and will require the city to respond to the firefighters' petition in writing by the end of February.
Newburgh City Manager Richard Herbek said the firefighters take the good of new contracts but refuse to accept the bad.
"It's outrageous," Herbek said. "You can't have it both ways."
Herbek also criticized the law that treats injured firefighters differently from other government retirees. He said Newburgh pays $474,802 annually to 13 injured firefighters, including the 10 who have filed the lawsuit, and it's an unfair burden on a distressed city.
Rosenwasser said the city has been willing to pay hefty legal fees just to hold on to 5 percent of the men's benefits for the two years of the decreases — a fight he expects the city to lose.
Herbek said he didn't know the cost of the legal fees but defended fighting back against the firefighters and others who might challenge the city.
"The city's got to protect itself," he said. "The city has got to protect its taxpayers. It's tricky business."

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