Firefighters respond on arbitration award

Earlier this week, the DN editorialized about the firefighters' arbitration award. Today the firefighters union responds in the letters section:

Your Oct. 19 editorial ("Firefighters' Award Comes with High Price") reads like a Nutter administration press release.

It adopts the flawed Nutter arguments without even a nod to citizen and firefighter safety.

The arbitration award to firefighters and medics was anything but arbitrary. The arbitration, supposedly binding, by a three-member panel, is the 40-year proven legal process to reach a contract for firefighters, medics and police - employees forbidden to strike. It works with no disruption of service.

The panel held 27 days of hearings, heard dozens of witnesses and had numerous executive sessions to fashion a contract award specific to firefighters and medics.

Each side made its best arguments, and each won some points and lost others. The city won the health-care and pension changes it wanted, and will save millions. Salary increases average only 2.25 percent. The city saves $5 million from our health-care "rainy day" fund.

The panel also thoroughly addressed the city's ability to pay. But because he didn't win everything, Mayor Nutter is stomping his feet like a child who wants the rules changed after the fact, saying he'll appeal this "binding" award. Blindly, the Daily News agrees.

Our award mirrors the police award, which the city didn't appeal. But, unlike police, Local 22 members are required to live in the city, making the same sacrifices, paying the same higher taxes, higher fees and wage taxes as other citizens.

The mayor, from day one, has targeted firefighters and medics for staff reductions - furloughs by a different name. In two years, he's cut 10 percent of the force without a single hire.

This summer, he instituted rolling furloughs (brownouts), closing engine and ladder companies, further compromising citizen and firefighter safety with expected results. The Nutter furlough complaint is a phony argument. There aren't enough firefighters or medics now.

And on your shot at the panelists' residency, yes, only one of the three lives and works in Philadelphia - the one appointed by the firefighters.

Bill Gault, President

Int'l. Assn. of Fire Fighters Local 22

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