Give firefighters same wages, benefits offered to other city employees

Dear Editor,
What is arbitration? Here in the United States, binding
arbitration is often used to settle labor disputes arising from
conflicting interpretations of existing employment contracts,
construction disputes between general contractors and
subcontractors relating to construction damage claims, or between
contractors and owners relating to the interpretation of work and
payment clauses in construction contracts and shareholder disputes
concerning the valuation of stock in closely held corporations, to
name but a few examples.
Dear Editor,

What is arbitration? Here in the United States, binding arbitration is often used to settle labor disputes arising from conflicting interpretations of existing employment contracts, construction disputes between general contractors and subcontractors relating to construction damage claims, or between contractors and owners relating to the interpretation of work and payment clauses in construction contracts and shareholder disputes concerning the valuation of stock in closely held corporations, to name but a few examples.

So why should this be taken away from public safety personnel? These individuals are subject to labor contracts like any other organized labor group. Many labor organizations, other than public safety, use binding arbitration to settle disciplinary actions, contract grievances and negotiation settlements. The difference between public safety labor organizations and private labor organizations is the ability to strike.

Many of us recall the recent strikes that have occurred locally. We all watched the effect it took on the business and the customers. How would the citizens of Gilroy, the customers, react if public safety went on strike? This would be detrimental to the welfare of this community. Without binding arbitration, contract disputes would go unsettled for years. This would be cause for great disharmony in any workplace.

The Gilroy firefighters used arbitration for the first time in 2000. According to the City of Gilroy’s own audits, this did not plunge the city into a financial depression as they stated. An independent arbitrator analyzed the data and equally settled the contract for both organizations. What did this get the citizens of Gilroy? The citizens now receive better service for their dollar and have improved the safety of those who risk their lives every day for them.

Here we are again in 2005, the City of Gilroy maintains again that they cannot afford to give the firefighters the same benefits and wages that are currently being offered to every other city employee. Should we balance the budget on the backs of the firefighters? Not when we deny them the same benefits as other city employees. It is poor financial planning of the City Council and city administrator to plan a 5-year budget that is unfair to one group of employees. The city is not in dire financial crisis. The retail engine is still humming at the new shopping centers. Give the firefighters the benefits they deserve and keep a process that is being used globally for dispute resolution.

Lisa Velasco, Gilroy

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