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Union chief decries fire layoffs

Evanston Firefighters Association president Brian Scott says there’s no economic reason for the city’s decision to layoff three union members.

Scott says that the city had proposed a zero percent raise for firefighters, a 10 percent increase in employee payments for health insurance and suspension of six paid holidays.

Evanston Firefighters Association president Brian Scott says there’s no economic reason for the city’s decision to layoff three union members.

Scott says that the city had proposed a zero percent raise for firefighters, a 10 percent increase in employee payments for health insurance and suspension of six paid holidays.

He says the union had been negotiating with the city on those issues and had reached tentative agreements on some of them before the dispute recently went to arbitration.

When he heard about the layoffs announced Wednesday by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, Scott says, he offered to apply all the cutbacks immediately to keep the firefighters on the job, but was turned down by the city manager.

While the contract remains unsettled, the firefighters’ pay rate doesn’t increase, but Bobkiewicz argues an arbitration award favorable to the union could leave the city stuck with higher costs going forward as well as the need to make retroactive payments from the time the old contract expired at the end of February.

Scott says the reduction from 26 to 25 firefighters per shift as a result of the layoffs will likely leave one of the city’s five fire engines unused at its station because three firefighters are needed to run each unit.

He says the department was already understaffed even before the layoffs, and the layoffs will increase response times to fire calls. In addition, he said, it means the city will have wasted the $30,000 it spent to train each of the recently-hired firefighters who’ll be laid off.

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