WESTMINSTER : City-Firefighter Impasse Targeted
Two staff proposals intended to break an impasse in the court-ordered negotiations between the city and the Westminster Firefighters Assn. Local 2425 will go before the City Council today.
Officials of the firefighters union will also present their side in the escalating labor dispute stemming from last month’s council decision to lay off six firefighters and put one fire truck out of commission.
An Orange County Superior Court judge blocked the layoffs and ordered the two sides to meet and confer to determine how the layoffs would affect public safety and the workload of other firefighters.
After seven meetings, the last of which was held last Wednesday, the two sides are still not in agreement, officials said.
In one proposal, city officials seek to reduce the current staffing levels of 20 firefighters per shift in each of the city’s three fire stations. A minimum of 16 firefighters would be assigned to each shift, plus three “floaters” to cover for personnel who are sick or on vacation or on leave.
This would reduce the Fire Department from 75 to 69 firefighters, but city officials said this is necessary to reduce the department’s overtime expenses, which have risen to more than $2 million for the past two years.
In addition, the city proposes to create a four-man paramedic crew in each fire station. Currently, Fire Station No. 3 at 6061 Hefley St. does not have paramedic services.
Under the other city proposal, shifts would be reduced to 16 firefighters each, but at each fire station there would be a three-man engine company with either the captain or the engineer trained as a paramedic.
Under both proposals, the city would contract with a private company for ambulance services, which the Fire Department currently provides.
Firefighters said that reducing staffing levels to as low as 16 people per shift would mean reduced fire services to the community. Instead, they propose to reduce each shift to 19 people and cut in half the six-member fire prevention bureau.
To reduce overtime cost, the firefighters said they will agree to eliminate time off as compensation for overtime and forfeit personal days off, although other city employees enjoy these benefits.
In addition, the firefighters propose to create two relief positions in each shift to cover for personnel who are sick, injured or on vacation.
“This proposal would reduce the Fire Department’s overtime expenses by as much as $590,000,” said Paul Gilbrook, president of the Westminster Firefighters Assn. 2425.
Gilbrook said the association’s proposal could be implemented in 30 days and would not require hiring additional personnel.