Firefighters’ union, city of San Jose reach deal to slash pay and benefits


Firefighters’ union, city of San Jose reach deal to slash pay and benefits
http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_17535180?nclick_check=1

Firefighters’ union, city of San Jose reach deal to slash pay and benefits

By John Woolfolk

jwoolfolk

Posted: 03/03/2011 09:53:07 PM PST
Updated: 03/03/2011 11:29:46 PM PST

San Jose officials Thursday announced a tentative deal in which city firefighters would agree to reduce their pay and benefits 10 percent for the next two years to avoid further layoffs in the thinly staffed department.

The deal requires ratification from the city’s 647 firefighters over the weekend and City Council approval Tuesday. But it makes firefighters the first among San Jose’s 11 employee unions to reach a deal on the 10 percent cuts Mayor Chuck Reed and the council have sought to help close a $105.4 million deficit in the budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

“Firefighters are making significant sacrifices every day on the streets, and they’re making sacrifices again at the bargaining table,” said Fire Capt. Jeff Welch, president of the San Jose Firefighters union. “We’re really happy. The city and firefighters came to the table and made a deal to save firefighters’ jobs and keep the public safe.”

The deal is a marked turnaround in relations between San Jose officials and firefighters, who have been at loggerheads for years. The firefighters’ last contract was settled in 2007 through a bitter arbitration process that city leaders complained saddled taxpayers with a $30 million pension liability. Firefighters argued that the city rejected their reasonable offers.

A Santa Clara County civil grand jury in 2009 blasted the firefighters’ union leaders for filing “excessive or frivolous” grievances against the city. But

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