Union: 'Reforms' would cost firefighters thousands

May 30, 2012 (CHICAGO)

Union President Tom Ryan called the mayor's proposals "horrendous" in a letter sent to his membership. Ryan said the city didn't address any of the union's proposals nor present ways to fix the pension system.

The current firefighters contract is up on June 30. While the mayor won't discuss contract specifics, he did say changes are necessary.

"As I said repeatedly in the campaign and also when we did the budget, no part of the budget is immune from change and reform to give greater value for the taxpayers as well as greater service for the citizens of the city of Chicago," Mayor Emanuel said.

"Reform" is the mayors word for "cuts," according to a letter sent out to members of the firefighters union. The union says the city is asking for cuts that would cost each firefighter thousands of dollars.

    The city's proposal would, among other things,
  • eliminate duty availability pay
  • eliminate 7-percent for cross trained firefighter/paramedics
  • eliminate a clothing allowance
  • reduce number of people on engines and trucks from 10 to 9

In his letter, Ryan writes the union will "Continue to vigorously fight these insulting, ridiculous proposals."

"I respect what Tom has to do. I respect what the members of the firefighters operations that the city employees have to do, but I have to make sure we're making the changes necessary for the future and not doing things as we used to do them because we used to do them," Emanuel said.

The proposal does not include closing firehouses. Regardless, UIC professor Robert Bruno is concerned that the city is picking the low hanging fruit rather than basing its proposals on good analysis.

"Do they really understand what the job of the firefighter currently is? How the citizens would be impacted. Or are they taking a sort of slash and burn approach?" Bruno said.

Professor Bruno says if the mayor chose to use the collective bargaining process in a cooperative way, he may be able to negotiate his way to savings.

Ryan would not go on camera for the story, saying he does not want to negotiate a contract through the media.

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