Tulsa Firefighters Union Wants Restraining Order Against City

Tuesday, January 14th 2014, 6:42 pm
By: Emory Bryan

The Tulsa firefighters union is in a battle against the city.

The union wants a restraining order against the city, to stop some budget cuts that would cut the pay for a handful of firefighters.

The city wanted to make the cuts this week, but the union has gone to court to stop them. The union says the city can't make people change jobs, and cut their salary, without negotiations.

The injunction filed late Monday is meant to stop budget cuts at the Tulsa Fire Department that were planned by the administration.

The union's position is that any cut that impacts firefighters is subject to contract talks.

Chad Miller, Firefighters Union President, said, "We're willing to sit down and discuss proposals the city might have, but just to say we're changing these and there's nothing you can do about it, that obviously puts us in a position where we're not going to agree."

The City wanted to cut $327,000 in overtime by moving seven administrators back to the field. The move would save overtime by having them fill in for firefighters out sick or on vacation.

The flash point over the cuts is that they would impact the department's public education unit; the division most frequently associated with Huffy the Fire Clown.

While the clown show is done off duty, the on duty education work is considered a vital part of what the department does, by going to schools to teach children what to do in a fire.

The four person education unit would be sent instead out to the field, with what the union says would be a substantial cut in pay.

"Why are we affecting the people who are on the job and at the same time making plans to bring new people into the fire department," Miller said.

The union says the city could avoid cuts by delaying a fire academy class that's planned to start next month.

But for the union, the principle is that any cuts have to be made at the bargaining table.

"Our position is that the city just can't say out of the blue, we have the right to change those things," said Miller.

The city says education won't be impacted because firefighters on light duty, because of injuries, will take over the work.

But the union says the change will mean a few firefighters will take $10,000 or more cuts in pay.

The city has no comment on the union's action.