DETROIT – Detroit Mayor Dave Bing announced today that the city plans to lay off 164 firefighters by the end of July. The financially strapped city is hoping the layoffs could be temporary, as it tries to secure a federal grant that would restore the jobs of 108 firefighters.
“Since I became mayor, I’ve made public safety my top priority, and I’ve said I would protect the jobs of police and firefighters, but fiscal realities have made this untenable,” Bing said in a statement to the media. “With my administration continuing to work to fiscally stabilize the city and with recent cuts to the city’s budget, we’re announcing the layoffs of 164 Detroit Fire Department firefighters by the end of July.”
DFD currently has 881 firefighters and 248 paramedics. Bing is banking on the remaining 56 firefighters, who are guaranteed to lose their jobs, being brought back as the department loses others to retirement and general attrition.
“For as long as we’ve been fighting fires in the city of Detroit, we have guaranteed that if you call us, we will come,” said Dan McNamara, president of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association. McNamara called the layoffs “disastrous” and said it will shut down 16 of Detroit’s firehouses.
“If these cuts remain, there will be times when we won’t have the necessary resources to respond. We have a disaster waiting to happen that will likely result in not only the loss of property, but potentially the loss of lives.”
McNamara also said Bing is calling for $23 million in cuts from the Detroit Fire Department which he feels could endanger the department and city residents by increasing response times and end up “taxing an already greatly reduced workforce.”
The layoffs come just three days after the Detroit Police Officer’s Association, the city’s largest police union, planned to sue the city over the expected termination of their collective bargaining rights when the union’s contract ends on July 1 – the beginning of the 2013 fiscal year. The DPOA told its members last Friday that it will file a legal challenge on July 1.
“We’ll be going to court,” said DPOA President Joe Duncan. “They’re trying to turn us into at-will employees with no rights.
“The kick in the teeth is, back in December (when the city renegotiated the contracts) when everything was going south it was all ‘Kumbaya,’ and let’s get a deal done; now they’ve got a hammer, and they’re hitting us in the head.”
The city notified Duncan last Wednesday of the intent to terminate the current collective bargaining agreement. DPD, which currently has nearly 2,600 officers, is slated to take a $75 million cut from its $414 million budget when the fiscal year starts on July 1 along with the elimination of 380 positions.