Fresno City Council voted to impose a contract agreement on Fresno Firefighters Thursday, but it's a contract Local 753 Union Members previously rejected.
City Council voted 5 - 2 Thursday, with Council Members Sal Quintero and Blong Xiong voting no, to impose a contract on firefighters. Firefighters were visibily upset with the decision and silently walked out of City Council.
"Frustrated, frustrated because we've been negotiating for a long time," says Local 753 President Pete Flores.
On June 26, City Council and Local 753 leaders agreed on a new contract with plans to adopt it if the union membership voted in favor of it. Union members voted against the contract. Thursday, July 10, City Council voted to impose a contract that had previously been presented in January. It was also a contract union members failed to ratify. The City says the impasse had to end, however they say there's still room to negotiate a deal that works for everyone.
"We can move forward and continue to negotiate and I'm quite confident that hopefully we'll reach agreement with the full membership in the next few weeks or months," says Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin.
Local 753 and City leaders have been negotiating since May 2013. The union wants both healthcare costs and pension contributions to be kept low. The City is trying to work towards a more financially stable future.
"We understand the debt has been there for some time but we don't think they need to take such extreme measures to impose such drastic measures on firefighters," Flores says.
The City says negotiations cost the City $73,000 in savings each month a deal isn't met. Mayor Swearengin says if firefighters are willing to pay more it could lead to a better funded department in the long run.
"Where we would actually like to focus is putting more resources in the department but we can't do that if healthcare costs and pension costs are sky-rocketing," Mayor Swearengin says, "We have to curb those costs so we can fund more firefighters on the streets in the City of Fresno."
State Law prevents firefighters from going on strike because of the risk to public safety. Firefighters can protest though on their days off.
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