Fire union agreement called ‘most impressive achievement’ of KC Council

Six days after Kansas City’s powerful firefighters union endorsed a new labor pact that will save taxpayers $6.8 million, the City Council finance committee on Wednesday gave its approval and sent it to the full council for a final vote next week.

Councilman Dick Davis, despite having reservations about some details of the three-year contract, called the agreement the current council’s “most impressive achievement of the first year.”

The pact achieves the budget reduction goal that City Manager Troy Schulte set in January without layoffs. Schulte said then that it would take a cutback of 107 firefighters to achieve the hoped-for $7.6 million savings from the Fire Department budget.

But negotiations between the city administration and Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters resulted in an agreement that met that financial goal with far fewer jobs lost.

The labor pact allows for the reduction of 33 positions through attrition and an early retirement program aimed at firefighters with more than 25 years of service. That would save $3.3 million, Schulte said. Changes in overtime rules would save an additional $3.5 million.

The remaining $800,000 in savings needed to meet Schulte’s $7.6 million budget goal will come from the loss of 17 positions in management, civilian employees and other labor groups.

Schulte aims make those cuts by the end of June.

Councilman John Sharp said he was glad there will be no layoffs, as those most likely to have been let go would have been junior firefighters who have been cross-trained in fire suppression and as paramedics.

He was upset that the agreement will mean shutting down two under-used fire stations, among them one in his district that serves the industrial area at the former Richards-Gebaur air base. The next closest one is in Martin City, he said.

Both he and Local 42 President Mike Cambiano said a study of the city’s fire needs must be done before any further cuts or redeployments are approved.