Friday, November 21, 2008

Fire union makes counter offer

In the face of millions in suggested cuts put forth by the Mesa City Council yesterday, the United Mesa Fire Fighters union has offered to sacrifice a day of pay per year. A day of pay equals out to 24 hours per employee which would be a savings of at least $1 million a year.

From what I can tell, what is really at stake here is two things: jobs and the number of fully staffed fire trucks on the road.

First, it appears that Mesa is looking to make some staff cuts, whereas the union is offering an alternative to keep everyone in a job. Obviously, thats the role of a union to preserve jobs, and I admit that they have offered up a relatively creative way to do it. It is good to see that the members are willing to make this sacrifice in order to save jobs, but is this the most efficient way to save money? While it functions like a pay cut, it really isn't one, because the base pay still stays high, they just voluntarily give a little bit of it up. That way, if the money starts flowing again, they could just stop offering to take the furlough, instead of having to ask for a raise.

The second issue appears to be the question of the number of Fire Trucks on the road. While I believe that its important to maintain public safety, I don't necessarily believe that quantity means quality. If over 60% of calls are health related, it appears that these transitional response vehicles might be an affordable way to make the money stretch a little further. It seems silly to keep the full cadre of giant trucks manned and leave the TRVs unstaffed because it would take overtime to use them. Wouldn't it be better to work it the opposite way? Keep a couple of trucks in reserve and have the fire fighters use overtime to use the big trucks if more are needed. I think that overtime in giant emergencies seems to make more sense than overtime just to keep response times down.

I admit that I am not a fire expert, but I would hope that both the union and the city are able to get together and figure things out. Ultimately, what I want is if there is trouble at my home, I want people to respond and I want them there in a reasonable amount of time. I don't really care how many people it takes or what kind of vehicle they are driving in.

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