The city of Omaha made a new offer Friday morning to the OFD union regarding the plan to trim expenses which would prevent the layoff of 19 firefighters in January.
"That offer has been replaced by a subsequent offer that at this point and time has no deadline to it, but it also came in about 9:20 this morning so as a board, as a group, we have not had the opportunity to discuss that," said OFD union president Steve LeClair during a news conference.
LeClair said they would look over the offer later on Friday and a meeting with the city negotiating team would take place in the near future. He later released the following statement:
"News reports that the city has accepted the counter offer made by the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association's are false. An agreement has not been finalized. As I stated during our news conference this morning, we received a new offer from Mayor Stothert with additional conditions and we are considering it. We will continue to negotiate in good faith with public safety remaining our top priority."
A deadline of noon Friday was set for the previous offer. The new offer accepts Local 385's counter offer to reduce the size of the paramedic class to nine in 2014. The city also agrees to treat all current department members the same way regarding layoff protection. The union had sought protection for recent hires, which would affect 48 firefighters. It's something the other 606 firefighters already have through 2015.
The new offer guarantees no layoffs in 2014 and 2015. The 2015 guarantee is no longer tied to the 2014 budget performance.
It also states that as of 2016, the city would have unrestricted discretion to determine overall staffing, daily staffing and staffing by rank for the department, including the right to layoff firefighters. The discretion reflects the prevailing practice of comparable cities under standards set by the Nebraska Commission of Industrial Relations.
The city started sending layoff notices to the 19 firefighters Monday as a way to cut costs because the fire department is $6.2 million over its 2013 budget.
Mayor Stothert said at her news conference Friday afternoon that if the smaller paramedic class is not agreed to, then there will be layoffs.
She said “active" paramedics are paid 13 percent more than regular firefighters and “inactive” paramedics are paid four percent more than regular firefighters. She said if this new class was to go through the city would have so many paramedics it wouldn’t even use some of them on a regular basis and beyond the extra pay, there is the issue of continuing education for paramedics which is also an expense.
When asked if putting a deadline on the negotiations was “heavy handed," she explained that before she was mayor the city was negotiating with the union and weeks would go by before it would answer. Stothert said 2014 is only weeks away and the issue needs to be settled.