Tulsa Fire Furloughs Avoided

Wednesday, June 24th 2009, 6:28 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa firefighters have a tentative deal with the city that includes no furloughs.  Other employees could have eight days off without pay.  The negotiations were grinding on at Tulsa City Hall.  The meeting started at 1 o'clock on Wednesday afternoon.

Firefighters will make concessions in benefits instead of taking unpaid time off.  At the contentious meeting where the city council approved the budget centered on cuts in personnel, firefighters were set for eight furlough days.  Now, it appears they might not have to take any.

Union negotiator Stan May tells The News on 6 the new firefighters contract will make cuts in benefits that offset the furlough days.  The offsets save the city the same $1.5 million as the furlough days.

The other employee unions for police and municipal employees are still at the table.

06/18/2009 Related Story: Tulsa Fire Supporters Attend Council Meeting

"We're continuing to talk with the unions on a daily basis and we hope to reach an agreement," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

The tentative deal has firefighters paying 3% of their pension costs and giving up some vacation to save the city $1.5 million.

"We're facing a severe budget crisis in the City of Tulsa and there is a limited number of places to go to solve the problems and the most logical is public safety because they are the only department who haven't suffered in past years in the funding," said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson.

The fire department has other cuts in the works like trucks they'll use for medical emergencies that save money on gas.

At the same time, the union and city are drafting the final language for a new contract to make a $1.5 million cut. The mayor says if there are any delays, she'll be forced to start furloughs.

"I don't know what's going to happen, but we're going to implement the furlough days July 1 unless we can come to an alternate agreement with police and fire on other things they can defer, suspend for this year, so we can balance the budget," said Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

Councilor Martinson says he didn't want furloughs or deep cuts, just a realistic budget.

"And, this was not an attempt to punish anybody or an attack on anybody, it was hopefully a wakeup call," said Tulsa City Councilor Bill Martinson.

The tentative deal to give up 3% of their benefits and rearrange vacation will have to be approved by the union members before it's final.