SJ firefighters union offers city new concessions

August 1, 2010 5:58:05 PM PDT
Dozens of firefighters laid off in the South Bay this weekend are hoping they can get their jobs back. The union is proposing a last-ditch plan to save some of those positions, but is it too little too late?

Station 30 in San Jose was one of the fires stations closed Sunday. A sign posted nearby warned neighbors about the closure. City officials say they still need time to review a proposal laid out by the firefighters union Sunday, but if their comments Sunday are any indication, this proposal may be dead on arrival.

There have been goodbyes all week long as groups San Jose firefighters turned in their gear for the last time.

"Friday was my last day. I turned my gear in yesterday," firefighter Darrell Sales said.

Just as the final round of layoffs became official Sunday morning, the firefighters union announced a last-ditch effort to save the jobs of the 49 now-unemployed firefighters.

The union proposed a more than five percent pay cut and reduced benefits for new hires. There would be no guarantee against future layoffs and the union would agree to new ways of staffing fire houses that could save in overtime costs.

"We think that this has real solutions and it goes into areas not only in structural reform, but in deployment models which have been key concerns of the city in the past," explained Firefighter Union President Randy Sekany.

However, in a city that is $118 million in the red, the plan may not go far enough for City Hall. $10 million in fire cuts is the city's goal. Officials at the bargaining table say this new proposal, the ninth so far from firefighters, is $6 million short, though the fire union says the plan actually amounts to millions more.

"Although there are some positive things in it in terms of the amount of pay reductions and benefit reductions the firefighters are going to offer, it appears to be the same as their prior offers," said city labor negotiator Alex Gurza.

"It's devastating. I mean, it rips my heart out. I can't tell you the pain that I feel personally for these young men and women," Capt. Rick Wardall told ABC7. "It's not fair. It's not right and the city needs to find a way to keep them."

For now, Station 30 remains closed and 49 firefighters are out of work.

"I took this job expecting to do 30 years here and now it's six months," Sales said.

City officials say realistically, in order to hire those 49 laid off firefighters, the firefighters union would have to offer even more cuts than the ones included in the current proposal. This all comes as the San Jose Fire Department is set to have a new chief begin his very first day on the job Monday.


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