Cincinnati Union Says 'No' to Firefighter Furloughs

CINCINNATI --

The union representing Cincinnati firefighters has said it will not agree to furloughs to help offset the city's budget shortfall.

Last week, the City Council passed $20 million worth of budget cuts that included six-day furloughs for all city employees, including firefighters and police officers.

But in an interview with News 5's Eric Flack, Local 48 Vice President Shana Johnson said simply, "The answer is no. Firefighters are currently not going to accept the furloughs."

Johnson said scheduling issues and requirements about the number of firefighters manning a truck on fire runs made the furloughs impossible for the union.

Firefighter furloughs alone would save the city $1 million, but Johnson said the union is not willing to make any concessions to help the city -- such as giving up benefits, overtime or paid days off.

"This comes down to the city has continued to spend, while in a budget deficit," Johnson said.

Without help from the firefighter's union, it would be up to City Manager Milton Dohoney to decide where to cut. Laying off firefighters is among the options Dohoney could consider.

When pressed about the possibility of layoffs, Johnson responded, "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

Meanwhile, voting begins Thursday among Cincinnati police officers on whether to accept the furloughs.

Kathy Harrell, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, met with Dohoney for 45 minutes early Wednesday. Harrell said the city wants officers to agree to six-day furloughs or come up with the equivalent savings of about $1.5 million.

Harrell said some younger officers have expressed a willingness to vote in favor of the furloughs because they think it will help save their jobs, but that may not be the case.

"I have been trying to make sure that I educate my membership to that. That it's not the police administration, it's not the city manager, its the City Council that has to vote and pass the fact that they want to lay off Cincinnati police officers," Harrell said.

Dohoney told Harrell that a 5 percent budget cut is necessary on top of the savings from work furloughs. Police Chief Tom Streicher could choose layoffs to cut the budget.

However, any cuts to police staffing would have to be approved by members of the City Council, who have already voiced strong opposition to any layoffs.

Councilmember Greg Harris said with a combined budget of more than $170 million, cuts to public safety have to be made.

"Most people in this city are suffering from this economy we're all making sacrifices. And just because you belong to a powerful union does not mean you should be immune to sacrifice," Harris said.

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