Columbus Firefighters Agree To Delay Pay Raises

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Mayor Michael Coleman reacted ecstatically Monday after learning that the union representing the city's firefighters had agreed to accept a pay raise delay.

"Hug your firefighter today," Coleman said during an afternoon news conference. "If you see one, hug him or her because they are saving lives as well as saving jobs."

Coleman's news conference came a few hours after the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 67 delivered a letter to his office informing him that its members had agreed to accept a 4 percent pay raise delay, 10TV's Maureen Kocot reported.

The union, which represents about 1,500 firefighters, discussed the issue throughout the weekend before reaching a decision.

"This is an unprecedented action by our firefighters, but it was necessary for their life safety through 2009," said union President Jack Reall. "With no economic relief in sight and no plans for revenue generation, firefighters were concerned about fire and police layoffs that would jeopardize their safety at emergency scenes."

While the firefighters' union said it would not forgo the 4 percent raise in June altogether, union members were willing to put raises on hold. The agreement is expected to save the city about $3.4 million, Kocot reported.

Even with the firefighters' agreement, city leaders are still searching for ways to trim about $9.6 million from the 2009 budget.

Earlier this month, Coleman asked each of the five unions representing city employees to accept pay freezes for 2009. The unions were asked to respond to the request last week.

The Columbus Municipal Association of Government Employees, a union that represents professionals and managers across city departments, denied the proposal on Friday.

The three other unions have also informed Coleman that they would not accept pay freezes, Kocot reported.

Coleman's request also drew action from the Fraternal Order of Police, which last week filed an unfair labor practice charge against the city, 10TV News reported.

The police union alleges that Coleman made a public demand to accept a pay freeze or lose positions. The union said that Coleman's request came as the two sides were in the process of contract negotiations. Fraternal Order of Police President Jim Gilbert said there were no issues with what Coleman asked for, but rather the manner in which he made the request.

Gilbert said there were set rules in place that outline how the sides should negotiate the pay freeze.

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Previous Stories:

January 25, 2009: Firefighter Union Votes On Mayor's Pay Freeze Request
January 23, 2009: Union Rejects Coleman's Pay Freeze Proposal
January 22, 2009: Labor Complaint Filed Against Coleman