The Los Angeles firefighters’ union renewed its campaign Thursday against the rotating brownouts at city fire stations, delivering hundreds of postcards demanding the restoration of full service. “This is not the time to be cutting fire service,” said Pat McOsker, head of the United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, during a rally at City Hall. “September and October is the brushfire season in Los Angeles. We just came off the Station Fire, which was the 10th worst in California history, and we didn’t even have any winds.”
Harbor-district Councilwoman Janice Hahn joined with the firefighters, calling on her colleagues to support a UFLAC plan to forgo its uniform allowance and sick pay and make other concessions. For the past six weeks, the city has reduced fire and ambulance service by 87 firefighters on a rotating basis to make up a $50 million shortfall in the Fire Department budget. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has criticized the UFLAC’s aggressive lobbying tactics, especially a mailer that used images of last year’s Metrolink crash. McOsker said the mayor’s criticism stoked public interest and resulted in a number of people saying they supported the firefighters. Deputy Mayor Robin Kramer said the mayor wanted to resolve the issue, but the city needed to find savings to make up a projected $530 million shortfall in the overall city budget. “The mayor tried to protect the Fire Department and we are askingless of them than other departments,” Kramer said. Most city departments were facing up to a 13 percent overall cut, but the LAFD reductions amount to 7 percent, she said. The city wants to declare an impasse in its contract negotiations with UFLAC, which would send the issue to the city’s Employee Relations Board to decide. McOsker said UFLAC opposes that and a hearing will be held later this month. If an impasse is declared, the city would be able to impose its last offer on the firefighters. During last week’s wildfires, the city modified its reductions in staffing to send more firefighters to the front lines. However, as of Thursday, the original reductions were back in effect.
Story by: Contra Costa Times