Heated Debate Between Fresno Firefighters and City Council Over Contract

A heated contract dispute between Fresno firefighters and the city might finally be over. After negotiating for a year both sides say they've finally reached a tentative deal.

Firefighters put their lives on the line every day and with so many fires around Fresno lately; those on the front lines say they deserve more than the city is offering them.

"We have taken a job that means we sacrifice more than most people," says Fresno Firefighter Lee Sharp, "We're asked to do things that the average person does not see or do. We don't ask for a thank you or a slap on the back. We do it for pride, honor and commitment."

Dozens of firefighters and their families packed Fresno City Hall Thursday during contract negotiations. Almost all of the contract details were worked out behind closed doors, but when a deal was announced, not everyone was happy.

"Year after year it's more cuts and more concessions from our paychecks," says another firefighter.

Members from the fire department told city council members they work around 56-hours a week. They added that past contract concessions have closed fire houses and firefighters.

"When we're doing those concessions we're not just giving it up, our families are giving it up," adds Sharp, "I don't understand why food is being taken off of our table, shoes taken off of our kids' feet and you sit there and give raises for city officials."

Firefighters also say that when the city was on the brink of bankruptcy they gave up $13-million dollars in concessions. Now that the city's finances are better, they're still being asked to make sacrifices.

"The argument would be that those times are over," adds another firefighter, "We don't still have that fiscal emergency hanging over our head and you need to realize that your workers are not the band aid to fix the city's financial issues."

The city says it needs the fire department to make around $1.8 million in concessions over the next two years to balance the budget.

"I need to make it clear this is your offer to us and the council with the motion of the floor is willing to accept that offer," says Fresno City Manager Bruce Rudd.

Firefighters will vote on the latest contract offer on July 7th and July 9th. If the deal is not ratified it will go back to council on July 10th, where council members might implement the contract.

The latest deal from the city includes firefighters paying more for healthcare, retirement costs and changes to the uniform allowance.