Firefighters agree to open contract — But union wants to ensure wage
PEORIA – The Peoria firefighters union is ready to open its contract in mid-term to talk about a wage freeze in light of the city’s current budget crisis, its president said Saturday.
The union’s members tentatively agreed to the negotiations by “a substantial margin” in a vote late Friday, Tony Ardis said.
But despite the vote, many members of the union still have concerns about what Ardis, president of Peoria Firefighters Local 50, called the “unprecedented move” of renegotiating a contract to freeze wages.
“This is new ground as far as Local 50 is concerned,” he said. “We just want to make sure that when we’re opening up the contract under the guise of a wage freeze, that’s what it’s relegated to and we only talk about that.”
The union will contact its attorney in Chicago on Monday morning to make sure it can halt the city from pushing for any other significant changes in the contract terms besides a potential wage freeze, Ardis said.
A freeze likely would accompany some sort of trade-off with the city, and Ardis said the union wants to be sure that discussions center only on the wage freeze and the tradeoff and not develop into fullscale negotiations on unrelated issues.
More than 200 firefighters would be affected by a wage freeze, which would be instituted as an alternative to eliminating 22 positions within the fire department.
The city also initially intended to close two fire stations, but the City Council revised those plans. The council asked all of the city’s unions to consider a wage freeze as a cost-cutting measure. The police department also will lose positions, but no active officers will be cut under the current plan.
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