Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert announced Monday that layoff notices will be delivered to 19 Omaha firefighters, starting today. According to the Mayor, the layoffs are a result of the union refusing to agree to necessary staffing changes to the current contract.
"These layoffs can be prevented if the union, through its leadership, agrees to reduce the size of the 2014 paramedic classes," said Mayor Stothert. "We will have over 300 certified paramedics by the end of the 2014, nearly half the sworn strength of the department. Reducing the number and size of the 2014 paramedic training classes will not affect public safety."
In a news release, the Mayor said the fire department is $6.2 million over budget in 2013. She added that layoffs have always been a consideration as an alternative to meet the 2014 budget.
Mayor Stothert said that she attempted to negotiate with the union. She made two offers, in writing, that would have prevented layoffs; one offer would have reduced the 2014 paramedic training class from 48 to 12 and the other would have extended the no layoff option through 2015 had the department agreed to meet its 2014 budget of $90.6 million. The union rejected both offers, insisting on an indefinite guarantee of no layoffs.
The 19 layoffs will be effective January 4, 2014. According to interim Fire Chief Bernie Kanger, the firefighters receiving notice are probationary firefighters, hired in February 2013. The notices were determined based on their ranking on the firefighter entrance exams.
There are currently 652 firefighters in the Omaha Fire Department, 21 more than allocated in the 2013 budget. The City's Human Resources Department will meet with each firefighter receiving notice to go over their rights.