CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Firefighters Union has been using heated language to describe ongoing contract talks with the Emanuel Administration, but the mayor stressed Wednesday that firefighters are not “immune from change and reform.”
Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2 president Tom Ryan has sent a letter to rank-and-file firefighters, calling the city’s cost-cutting proposals in contract talks “horrendous,” “insulting,” and “ridiculous.”
The union is blasting city proposals to reduce the number of firefighters at some firehouses, get rid of duty availability pay, and to restrict holiday pay.
WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore reports Mayor Rahm Emanuel was firing back Wednesday.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio Political Editor Craig Dellimore Reports
“I respect what Tom has to do, I respect what the members of the firefighters operations, that the city employ, have to do, Emanuel said. “But I’ve got to make sure that we’re making the changes that are necessary for the future, and we’re not just doing things as we used to do them, because we used to do them.”
The mayor said he does not want to negotiate in public, but he said “no part of our city is immune from change and reform. And that goal is also to get increased service and greater value for the taxpayers. We can’t keep doing the same things we were doing in the past, and expect everything to take care of itself.”
The mayor labeled some of the city’s proposals “reforms,” not cuts. He said they’re needed.
“Employees are great, they do hard work. We will make sure that they’re properly … not only compensated and respected for the work that they do, but as I said repeatedly in the campaign, and also when we did the budget – no part of the budget is immune from change and reform to get greater value for the taxpayers, as well as greater service for the citizens of the city of Chicago,” Emanuel said.
Among other things, the city wants to eliminate the clothing allowance for firefighters, a 7 percent bonus for firefighters and paramedics who train to do each other’s jobs, pay grades, premium pay, and a physical fitness incentive.
The union is scoffing at those changes, calling them an attack on firefighter wages and benefits.