TULSA, OK -- The Tulsa firefighters union has overwhelmingly approved a package of salary concessions that will prevent layoffs.
"So they voted their heart and that's what they need to do," said Stan May, Firefighters Union President.
599 firefighters voted
422 voted for the concessions
177 voted against
An announcement from Local 176 was made Sunday night.
"We've stepped up to make sure that we keep the number of firefighters on the street that we believe is necessary. Even though that number is considerably lower than the national standard, we don't believe that we can go any lower for the citizen's safety or for our own safety," said Stan May.
The proposal from Mayor Dewey Bartlett includes a 5.2 percent pay cut and eight unpaid furlough days for each firefighter over the next 17 months. In addition, firefighters will have to pay for their own uniforms and they gave up fitness incentives. The union says it all amounts to an 11 percent pay cut.
The Tulsa Fire Department has to make up for a $2.5 million shortfall.
May says pulling that many firefighters off the streets was unacceptable.
"We've been saying that we're a brotherhood from the start and this brotherhood, we took an oath to protect the citizens and if there was another way to protect the citizens, that would have allowed for these layoffs not to affect the safety, we could have considered that," said Stan May.
"One hundred forty-seven of us were on the chopping block and the rest of them didn't have to vote to save our jobs, but they did and I appreciate it greatly," said Michael McGee, a Tulsa firefighter.
McGee says he didn't know what he was going to do if he couldn't be a firefighter.
"Unemployment doesn't pay that much and the job market's pretty tough. So, it was pretty gut wrenching that last month and a half," McGee said.
The union says the cuts are not the best means for solving Tulsa's budget problems, but firefighters were not given an alternative and May says this vote reflects their dedication.
"There's nobody trained to do what we do. If we decide to send 147 firefighters home, we leave the city in serious risk," said Stan May.
Mayor Dewey Bartlett's statement regarding IAFF Local 176 vote against layoffs:
"We can now get on with the business we were all hired to perform, to deliver quality services and protection to the citizens of Tulsa," said Mayor Dewey Bartlett in response to the positive vote of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 176. "We offered a very good plan to the Fire union members in order to retain all our workforce, and our collaborative discussions with the fire union leaders were obviously productive. We have an agreement that will take us through the next 17 months. Now, we can move forward and focus our attention on being the best fire department possible, capitalizing on the strengths and passions of these men and women," Bartlett said.
"My thanks goes to the firefighters for their willingness to help our city in this time of need. My thanks also goes to the union leadership for their confidence in our administration," Bartlett continued. "Their ability to promote their members as a true example of brotherhood and sisterhood is a breath of fresh air."
The firefighters vote comes after the Fraternal Order of Police rejected concessions last Wednesday, and 124 officers lost their jobs Friday.
The non-sworn employees of the city also rejected salary cuts and 30 employees lost their jobs. A total of 65 originally lost their jobs, but some were able to bump down to lower paying positions or take other similar vacant positions in the city.
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