Months of contentious negotiations culminated Thursday with the Kansas City Council’s 10-2 vote in favor of a new three-year contract with the firefighters union.
The agreement factors in a $7.6 million cut to the fire department and calls for the retirement or attrition of 33 of the most senior firefighters in Local 42 of the International Association of Fire Fighters.
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It also requires firefighters to work more hours before overtime kicks in and takes two of the most underused fire companies — near Westport and the former Richards-Gebaur Air Base — out of service.
Savings also are expected from retirement or voluntary departure of up to 17 other department employees from the ranks of battalion chiefs, deputy chiefs and civilians.
While the agreement calls for reducing the union ranks by 33 in the first year, it precludes further reductions in years two and three. It includes annual salary increases for junior firefighters in the second and third year of the agreement.
Supporters said this was the best deal the city could reach in tough economic times. “We will be working to make sure we have the excellent department our citizens deserve,” said Councilwoman Jan Marcason.
Council members Ed Ford and Jim Glover voted against the deal and said they had major concerns about a multiyear agreement that they aren’t sure the city can afford.
Councilman John Sharp voted for the agreement and said he was glad it avoids layoffs, but he worried that closing the station near Richards-Gebaur could jeopardize public safety in south Kansas City.
Union president Mike Cambiano said that even though union members voted overwhelmingly for the agreement, the difficult negotiations have damaged the city’s labor/management relationship.
“It’s not a victory,” he said, adding his members made concessions to keep more firefighters on the payroll and protect public safety. He complained that the council insisted on cutting $7.6 million without doing professional research to evaluate the impact on the city.