LOS ANGELES (CNS) — Los Angeles officials Thursday announced a tentative deal with the city firefighters' union aimed at avoiding layoffs and temporary closures of fire stations amid the city's budget crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The United Firefighters of Los Angeles City agreed to delay firefighters' scheduled salary increase by 18 months, Mayor Eric Garcetti and Council President Nury Martinez announced.
The delay, expected to save millions of dollars, will protect jobs and services and prevent the city from imposing temporary closures of fire stations, according to Garcetti's office.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Los Angeles' economy, and we asked our firefighters to help us protect critical emergency services by deferring their scheduled raises," Garcetti said. "We have reached a tentative agreement with UFLAC that, along with the deals we reached with civilian unions this week, will help us avoid harmful layoffs and deep service cuts. I'm grateful for their collaboration, and I hope other bargaining units follow this example and come to the table during this difficult moment."
UFLAC President Capt. Freddy Escobar said the deal will help the city recover from an unprecedented crisis, while being fair to the union's members, who have been on the frontlines.
"The coronavirus has ravaged our country and families throughout our city. Los Angeles is the epicenter of this pandemic and our firefighters and paramedics on the frontlines see this devastation every single day," he said.
"Most importantly, this agreement will maintain essential LAFD resources and ensure that the people of Los Angeles will continue to receive the first class lifesaving services that they expect and deserve."
Martinez also thanked firefighters, not only for their service during the pandemic, but for helping the city in its effort to solve the budget crisis.
"During this pandemic, we've seen our city employees embody the meaning of `public servants' beyond anything we have ever seen in our lifetimes. Thanks to them, our city continues to move forward despite the devastation of coronavirus. They saved us throughout the last year and when called upon to help solve our city's pandemic-driven fiscal crisis, they stepped up and saved us again," Martinez said.
City employee layoffs were proposed by City Administrative Officer Richard Llewellyn in December as a way to keep the city financially stable. The budget report recommended laying off nearly 1,900 employees.
On Tuesday, city officials announced they reached a tentative deal with the city's non-sworn employees to avoid layoffs. No such deal, however, has been reached with the Los Angeles Police Protective League, which represents LAPD officers.
"It's welcome news that other city employee groups are sharing in the financial sacrifice police officers have been making since our members had their pay cut 7.5% in July 2020, when cash overtime was eliminated," LAPPL President Craig Lally said. "The City Council's decision to defund the LAPD by $150 million last year also eliminated 255 officers from our ranks. Those cuts in pay and personnel should go to the city's bottom line.
"The City Council attempted to stuff tens of millions of those dollars in an undesignated slush fund, which the mayor correctly vetoed," Lally said. "Finally, the council-approved pay raise for police officers this month will finally bring us to parity with our public safety counterparts. It would be unfair to now ask police officers to absorb what would be a 10.75% pay cut, which is far in excess of what any other city employee group has been asked to sacrifice. The LAPD was the first group to contribute to the cause, and our officers have contributed the most."