Dozens of San Jose firefighters face layoffs

July 29, 2010 6:55:27 PM PDT
For the first time in San Jose history, firefighters will be laid off. A stalemate between the city and the firefighter's union will result in the elimination of 81 positions, which translates into 51 layoffs.

One fire station will be closed and three others will have less staff and equipment.

Capt. Richard Wardall is at station No. 33 on Communications Hill in San Jose which is the station that will be locked up starting Sunday.

"I've never seen anything like this in my 30 years as a resident and as an employee," he said.

The unprecedented layoffs come as San Jose closes a $118 million budget gap. The city asked each of its 11 employee unions to give up 10 percent of their salary and benefits to help avoid layoffs and cuts in services.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reid says the firefighters union has fallen $6 million short of what's needed to avoid layoffs.

"If we get an agreement with our fighter's union in August or September or October, we'll be reaching out to those firefighters and bringing them back as quickly as possible," he said.

The president of the San Jose Firefighter's Association disputes the amount firefighters are willing to give up, but says regardless, the city has the money to avoid layoffs but has chosen to spend that money on other less vital city services.

Randy Sekany says the city is playing a dangerous game of politics and policy that will put people at risk.

"I guarantee you that it will ultimately result in some person being injured more gravely or possibly dying or that a house will burn more dramatically or completely. I guarantee it," he said.

City leaders say they are going to minimize the impact on response time by moving resources to where they are most needed.

"The dynamic deployment and move up models that are being implemented are going to, as effectively as possible, distribute our resources," San Jose City Councilman Pete Constant said.


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