SJ firefighters ID possible cuts amidst layoff talks

April 14, 2010 5:23:54 PM PDT
Firefighters in San Jose are desperately trying to save their department from deep cuts, but the city says its enormous budget deficit can only be closed by cuts in virtually every city service.

The firefighters say proposed cuts will their cripple emergency response capabilities.

"Simply put, when called, we will not get to you in time. We will not get there," said Randy Sekany with the San Jose FireFighters Union. "Your house will burn more dramatically. Your lives will be at far greater risk."

The city manager's budget proposal includes cutting more than 80 firefighters, eliminating one truck and five engines. Six stations would have reduced resources or be closed. The city is facing a $116 million budget shortfall. The fire cuts would save $16 million.

"These cuts all come at a time when the city continues to spend outrageous amounts of money on non-essential consultants and equipment," Sekany said.

The firefighters' union Wednesday produced a list called "City Spending Gone Wild," of what they say is wasteful city spending totaling $6 million. On its list of contracts, the union says the city could live without a contract for $326,743 with Sunnyvale Toyota for Toyota Priuses, as well as a $203,000 contract with Management Education Group for leadership training.

City council member Madison Nguyen says that spending should be re-evaluated.

"I think that's probably one of the things that we're going to look at more carefully at and re-examine how we move forward with some of these contracts," she told ABC7 News. "My preferred choice actually would be to see if we could consolidate some of these services, do them in-house."

On the other hand, Mayor Chuck Reed says terminating those contracts would only create one-time savings. The city needs on-going savings. He says the only way to save jobs is for the firefighters to give back 10 percent in wages and benefits.

"I think the choice of whether or not we have layoffs and service cuts in the fire department is up to the firefighters' union," Reed said. "It's up to them to give us the concessions or else we're going to have a lot less firefighters.

The firefighters have agreed to some wage-related concessions and also to a wage freeze for 18 months. However, that comes nowhere near the 10 percent in concessions the city says it needs. The war of words and numbers will continue during the budget process over the next couple of months.


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