Judge orders city to hire more firefighters

Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – More firefighters may be coming into the cash-strapped city, per a judge’s order.

Wayne County Circuit Judge John Gillis Feb. 24 ordered the city to hire six firefighters to fulfill its contract with the International Association of Firefighters Local 1410. The contract, which expires in 2013, calls for minimum staffing levels of 28 firefighters. The department has 22 active firefighters and has had less than 28 for more than a year.

The order also stipulates the city must pay backpay to the firefighters dating to July 1, 2011.

The city already has filed an appeal against the ruling, City Administrator John Zech said.

“We do not have the money to bring in either five or six more firefighters,”he said.

Police and Fire negotiations have long been a sticking point for the city, which issued and rescinded layoff notices to its entire Fire Department last year. The city sent a letter Feb. 15 to the department asking for further concessions, including a 10 percent cut to base pay.

Fire representatives made concessions under their closed contract two years ago.

The city also filed for a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant more than a week ago for the funds to hire six firefighters, which could take up to six months. Zech said discussions to file for the grant had been in the works far before the judge’s ruling.

“If we have to hire more firefighters and we are successful with that grant, it could perhaps be a big help to the city,” Zech said. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

An unfair labor practices lawsuit between the city and Fire Department is still pending before Michigan Employment Relations Commission Judge Julia Stern.

Union President Jeff O’Riley did not return calls seeking comment for this story by press time.