City slams fire union as uncooperative in negotiations

City officials are mulling a $100,000 traffic study for Welburn Avenue in Gilroy.

Gilroy city officials sent out a news release Tuesday evening
slamming the city’s firefighters union for

delay tactics

in its negotiations with the City of Gilroy.
Gilroy city officials sent out a news release Tuesday evening slamming the city’s firefighters union for “delay tactics” in its negotiations with the City of Gilroy.

“I think it’s unconscionable,” Councilman Perry Woodward said regarding the firefighters’ stance. “Just last week, the firefighters wrote a letter to the editor (of the Gilroy Dispatch) implying that they were negotiating with us – I think that includes responding to the city’s proposal in a reasonable timeframe. That’s just not what’s happening.”

The city’s prepared statement claims that the International Association of Firefighters Local 2805 has been willing to meet with the city, but that the union “has not provided a constructive response, or even made the effort to provide a counterproposal.” As a result of the failed negotiations, the council voted 6-1 to revert to a two-station model and to close the Sunrise Station in northwest Gilroy during most of the next fiscal year. Councilman Peter Arellano cast the dissenting vote.

“(Local 2805) indicated that they are willing to meet with us at any time, but that they won’t be able to respond to our proposal or reach an agreement until they see how this fiscal year ends and what changes are in the (budget for fiscal year 2010-11),” said LeeAnn McPhillips, human resources director for the City of Gilroy. The 2010-11 fiscal year runs from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

The fire union made a one-year concession agreement with the city last year for this current fiscal year that included savings to the city of about $500,000. If that concession agreement is not extended, city officials say that Local 2805 members will receive an 8.44 percent increase in compensation starting July 1, plus an additional 1.5 percent salary increase at the beginning of 2011.

Local 2805 and city officials met Monday for the fourth time since November to discuss possible concessions. The city initially met with the union in November to discuss reducing the required number of firefighters on an engine as a way to reduce temporary closures due to staff shortages at the Sunrise Station in northwest Gilroy. The station has mostly been closed since the city began implementing “brownouts” there in November. City officials say they could keep the station open if they were able to reduce staffing ratios from four firefighters to an engine to three firefighters. However, union officials have said in the past that maintaining at least four firefighters to an engine is a safety issue.

The city and fire union met again Dec. 1 and then on Feb. 9, when the city indicated that it would seek budget concessions as part of any discussion over increasing the city’s staffing model.

City officials said they provided budget information and made a formal proposal Monday to extend this fiscal year’s concessions into next fiscal year. However, Local 2805 has not provided a counterproposal.

As a result, the City Council has opted to change to a two-station model for the City of Gilroy for the upcoming fiscal year. The Sunrise Station only would be open in an “overstaff” situation, city officials said. To accomplish that staffing model, three fire captains and three fire engineers will be demoted to the rank of a firefighter.

Council members expressed ire about the fire union’s failure to come up with a counterproposal.

Mayor Al Pinheiro indicated that the Gilroy Management Association and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have both agreed to two years of concessions, while Local 2805 agreed to one. The city plans to meet with the Police Officers Association this spring to negotiate a new contract.

“All we are asking is that they hold their wages at the level that they have today – that’s the same thing that our managers and non-safety employees already agreed to,” Pinheiro said.

For more on this issue, and for the firefighters’ response, check back Wednesday afternoon.

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