Ugly accusations made in SJ firefighter contract dispute

August 31, 2010 8:11:47 PM PDT
Some ugly accusations are being made about city leaders in San Jose. Firefighters accuse them of lying to the public about the impact of layoffs and budget cuts in the department - something officials flatly deny. The contract dispute is growing increasingly hostile.

The union says the man who designed the city's dynamic deployment system to move fire equipment around to cover gaps in resources warned the city manager that the idea was unproven.

A union representative played an audio tape on Tuesday where Geoff Cady spoke at a national conference in Florida. Cady said on April 30 he could not promise dynamic deployment would mitigate or offset firefighter layoffs.

Back then Cady said, "One of the things I have not committed to and highly recommend you do not do either is how much mitigation will occur out of this. Basically when I brought this idea forward to managers as an idea, I did not commit to mitigation."

The audiotape release caught the city off guard and the city manager says there will be an investigation.

"So as we speak, my staff is sorting out the details of who said what to whom and I think very importantly, what context because certainly comments can be taken out of context," says San Jose City Manager Debra Figone.

Mayor Chuck Reed says the city has never tried to whitewash the impact of budget cuts on response times. When the union wouldn't take a 9 percent cut in pay and benefits, the city laid off 49 firefighters and cut five engines.

"I don't think anybody believes that you can do the same amount of work with 49 fewer firefighters and no one's ever made that claim," says Reed.

What the city promised is that dynamic deployment would be one tool that would help move resources where they needed to be in the event of a fire. So far, the commuter-based system is only partially in place.

"We are examining and doing this for the first time. It's going to take some time for us to go through evaluation process and let the public know whether it is working or not," says Councilmember Madison Nguyen.

The union says dynamic deployment gives people a false sense of security while the mayor says the union is using scare tactics to avoid pay cuts that other unions have taken.


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