FIre Unions Protest Transfer Policy

Members of Local 22 of the firefighters' union packed City Council this morning to denounce Mayor Nutter's plan to rotate as many as 300 senior firefighters from their longstanding posts to new areas of the city.

The administration says the moves are part of an effort to train and familiarize firefighters with new parts of the city, while the union sees the transfers as "vindictive" attempts to punish union members and force out senior firefighters.

Local 22 and the Nutter administration have been locked in complicated and litigious contract negotiations for four years, with no end in sight.

The ill-will was evident in the signs the firefighters carried into Council chambers, including one that read, "Rotate On This Mike Nutter." Other signs claimed the mass transfers would lead to "mass casualties" and make firefighters' jobs more difficult and dangerous.

Local 22 President Bill Gault called the transfers "a complete foreign concept to the art of firefighting."

Several Council members gave speeches in support of the firefighters before passing a resolution calling for a hearing on the transfers. Councilman James F. Kenney, a reliable firefighter ally, said the hearing would be scheduled for Nov. 27.

"To me, it's just cold-hearted and unnecessary," he said of the planned rotations.

Nutter's union problems extend to the two, non-uniformed municipal workers unions, District Council 33 and 47. The two unions - both working without contracts - planned to stage a "candlelight vigil" outside the mayor's Wynnefield home Wednesday night, calling for "fair contracts for all city worker unions." 

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