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Gloucester City Firemen List Reasons for Breaking Off Contract Negotiations with Mayor and Council

"Anything less and Mayor James could feel the guilt a previous administration suffered when staffing shortages contributed to the deaths of three children and three firefighters on July 4, 2002. We wish no such horrible guilt on Mayor James."  Jerry Hubbs, Union representative for Locals 51 and Local 251

  Jerry Hubbs, a spokesperson for Locals 51 and Local 251, the unions that represent N114007471967364_3123 Gloucester City firemen released the following statement last week to the Gloucester City News about why the unions cancelled the verbal agreement that was made with the taxpayers of Gloucester City on June 30. The statement reads as follows,

 "Like the taxpayers of Gloucester City, we firefighters of FMBA Locals 51 and 251 feel the affects of the worst economy in 80 years. We are also taxpayers, and realize difficult financial decisions and belt tightening are necessary. Like our neighbors, we want to keep our jobs, and like firefighters around the state and across the country, we must protect our community.

"  In contract negotiations with City government, FMBA Locals 51 and 251 faced the possibility of losing eight total firefighter/EMTS through layoffs. To avoid falling below even the current minimum staffing levels, we agreed to no salary increases for three years, a freeze in longevity pay and elimination for new hiree’s, and other key concessions totaling approximately $500,000.

 " Comparisons show FMBA Locals 51 and 251 have offered the steepest concessions of any union in New Jersey. We have also received accolades from various writers and editors regarding our attempt to retain current staffing in lieu of concessions.

  "Through these concessions progress was achieved and a tentative agreement between the firefighters and city officials was reached June 30th. This agreement was short-lived, as the mayor and members of city council reneged on the agreement. The Mayor and Council refused to agree to a clause that guarantees no layoffs in the fire department for one year.

  "The mayor and city council now say that they will not only refuse to sign the contract, but will layoff 12 firefighter/EMTS instead of the earlier proposed eight. The Firefighters and Fire Officers will now take the same stand as all the other negotiating unions of the City and have a professional mediator/arbitrator decide the conclusion of the contract.

  "Meanwhile, the Gloucester City administrator has issued a memorandum proclaiming that fire department personnel will not be replaced when a member is out sick or on vacation. This creates additional risk for the fire department and the public. Operating one of the busiest single engine companies and single ambulances in Camden County at approximately 4,000 calls for emergency service annually, we and volunteer ranks are stretched to our limits every day.

  "Century-old building construction, high population of elderly residents, changing social quality, trans-ocean shipping ports and chemical warehousing, proximity to Philadelphia, and highly traveled interstates in 2.2 square miles requires Gloucester City to man a full contingent of firefighters. Any further cutbacks can be catastrophic.

  "At several public forums, Mayor William James stated that he believes the fire department is "...too big,"[GCFD is actually one of the smallest fire departments in Camden County] and the police department "...can never be big enough.”

  "As a former police officer in Gloucester City, we can appreciate his loyalty to the police department. Police and firefighters all dedicate our lives to Gloucester City, and deserve equal respect and support from the Mayor.

  "Anything less and Mayor James could feel the guilt a previous administration suffered when staffing shortages contributed to the deaths of three children and three firefighters on July 4, 2002. We wish no such horrible guilt on Mayor James.

  "The members of FMBA Locals 51 and 251 want to look back on these difficult days as times when people banded together to resolve problems in keeping Gloucester City safe for its citizens and public safety workers alike."


 

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