Tulsa FFs OK Pay Cuts to Avoid Layoffs


Tulsa World, Okla.

Posted: Mon, 02/01/2010 - 08:38
Updated: Mon, 02/01/2010 - 09:40

Tulsa firefighters voted overwhelmingly to save 147 jobs by agreeing to a 5.2 percent pay cut and other benefit concessions, union officials announced Sunday night.

"There's nobody else trained to do what we do," said Stan May, president of Tulsa Firefighters Local 176. "If we took 147 firefighters off the streets, we would put this city in serious risk."

Union members voted 442 to 177 to accept the mayor's proposal, which includes a 5.2 percent salary cut for 17 months, eight unpaid furlough days in the next fiscal year and the elimination of benefits such as fitness pay and a clothing allowance.

The announcement comes days after 124 Tulsa police officers and 59 civilian employees were laid off after both their unions turned down pay cuts in lieu of the job losses.

In a statement Sunday night, Mayor Dewey Bartlett thanked the firefighters for helping the city.

"We can now get on with the business we were all hired to perform, to deliver quality services and protection to the citizens of Tulsa," Bartlett said. "We offered a very good plan to the fire union members in order to retain all our workforce, and our collaborative discussions with the fire union leaders were obviously productive."

Bartlett also said he appreciated the firefighters faith in his administration, something Tulsa police officers said they lacked when voting down his proposal for their department.

Bartlett said the union's "ability to promote their members as a true example of brotherhood and sisterhood is a breath of fresh air."

May said firefighters "voted their heart" to keep Tulsa safe.

The pay cuts could be revisited in a year if the budget gets back to where it was at the beginning of this fiscal year, he said.

Firefighters began the voting process Tuesday. It included three days of member education and three days of voting to allow for all three 24-hour shifts to participate.

The Fire Department has a budget gap making up $2.5 million of the city's $10.4 million shortfall for this fiscal year.

On Friday, 124 Tulsa police officers were laid off after the Tulsa Fraternal Order of Police overwhelming voted down a similar proposal from the mayor Wednesday. At the last minute, 31 jobs were saved as city officials revised their number crunching.

Also Friday, 59 civilian employees were laid off. Their union also voted against a 5.2 percent pay cut for all, although their decision was not binding on the mayor.

The firefighters who received layoff notices Jan. 22 would have been off the job immediately had the union voted down Bartlett's proposal.

James Fuller, 26, a firefighter on the chopping block, said he was grateful to his colleagues for accepting the agreement. At lot was riding on the voter for Fuller, his wife and two children, a toddler and a 2-month-old baby.

"I'm thankful it passed," Fuller said as he took a celebratory swig from his beer bottle at the firefighters' union hall, where a news conference was held announcing the firefighter vote.

"I'm thankful I get to go to work tomorrow morning, get on the engine and do what I do."

McClatchy-Tribune News Service