Legal dispute over wages continues between the City of Morgantown and its Firefighters Union

Monongalia and Preston
Morgantown Fire Engine 3 parked in front a firehouse

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The legal dispute between the professional firefighters of the IAFF 313 and the City of Morgantown is still ongoing.

It all, in part, began after the firefighters issued a vote of no confidence against City Manager Kim Haws. Firefighters said it was in response to his decision to cut what is known as a shift differential.

“There has been a unilateral elimination of a shift differential, which is a little bump in pay if you work midnight, or if you work afternoon and it’s a benefit given to everybody in the city,” firefighters’ lawyer Teresa Toriseva said previously. “It’s a job benefit, they use it as a recruiting tool, it’s a good thing.”

Toriseva said that cutting shift differential was in retaliation to the union’s refusal to accept the city’s settlement offer on a different case from 2019 regarding holiday pay.

Toriseva

In a statement, she said the following:

The cancellation of shift differential pay for 24 hour
shift firefighters only, immediately following the
refusal of firefighters to settle the Holiday Pay case
is retaliation against these firefighters. Retaliation is
a form of official discipline and protecting public
safety and first responders from the whims of elected
and appointed officials is exactly why the Civil Service
Commission must hold a hearing and reverse this
illegal pay cut.

Teresa Toriseva – Attorney, IAFF 313

However, after 51 firefighters requested a hearing with the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the City of Morgantown pushed back.

In her statement, Toriseva said “the City filed a response last week indicating the Civil Service Commission should not even hold a hearing.”

In response, she is filing a response on Monday, April 12, disputing the city’s assertion that a hearing can’t take place.

The CSC is the first step, Toriseva said. Firefighters hope to mitigate all the wage issues through it.

However, if they cannot, 47 more firefighters will file a suit about the holiday dispute, which the union alleges is the reason for retaliation. That will be in addition to the 54 who already filed in regards to the holiday pay dispute.

Monongalia Co. Justice Center, where Toriseva files suits on behalf of IAFF 313

For its part, the City of Morgantown has maintained its innocence. In a statement issued after the vote of confidence and promise of further legal action, it pointed out what it saw as “several inaccurate statements” being made regarding shift differential.

The statement reads, in part, as follows:

“For clarification, the City Personnel Rules provide a shift differential for employees who work the afternoon shift and the night shift. With a new city manager starting in December, and through work with a consultant on a Classification and Compensation Study and updates to City Personnel Rules, city administration identified inconsistencies in how some employees were claiming shift differential. All department directors were notified to check those practices and make sure shift differential was being paid equally to all our employees as laid out in the personnel rules.”

It continues later by saying:

“The fact is that shift differential applies to ALL employees, not just one department. We will continue to review our employment and pay practices to ensure that they are being adhered to and that we treat all city employees equally under our established rules. Ensuring the Personnel Rules are applied equally is not retaliation for the lawsuit filed by some of the firefighters regarding holiday pay and suggesting otherwise ignores the rules.”

You can read Morgantown’s entire statement, here.

But again, Toriseva and her clients, the professional firefighters of the IAFF 313, said they are not giving up just because the city denies any wrongdoing.

Toriseva said firefighters will be bringing claims for retaliation and wage loss in court if the CSC hearings fail.

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