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The Boston firefighters union is threatening to sue to block an arbitrator from considering whether mandatory drug and alcohol testing should be included in their new contract, Mayor Thomas M. Menino's office said.
"We were met with the threat of litigation over drug and alcohol testing," said Menino spokeswoman Dot Joyce.
Firefighters and city officials have been locked in contentious contract talks for two years. Both sides have been meeting privately in recent days to either resolve the dispute or agree on what should be decided by an arbitrator.
Jakes want to be paid to take drug tests, and city officials are concerned that paying firefighters could affect other union contracts.
The Menino administration asked for drug and alcohol testing to be included in the new contract, after the Aug. 29, 2007, fire at the Tai Ho Mandarin and Cantonese Restaurant that claimed the lives of firefighters Paul J. Cahill and Warren J. Payne.
Published reports said autopsies found Cahill was legally drunk and Payne had cocaine in his system. A Fire Department panel, comprised of union firefighters, attributed neither death to impairment.
In March, firefighter Anthony Gaston was arrested after Boston Police allegedly found him smoking marijuana in an official car.
Firefighters object to the arbitration demand, which was made after mediation began in August 2007, sources said. But Joyce said, "We wouldn't accept a contract without drug and alcohol testing."
Ed Kelly, Boston Firefighters Local 718 chief, did not return a call for comment.
Firefighters have been working without a contract since July 2006. Negotiations have been at an impasse since August 2007.

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