Firefighters unanimously agree to pay cuts, furloughs to save jobs, serve city

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PHOENIX -- In an unanimous vote, hundreds of firefighters have agreed to take a 2 percent pay cut and four furlough days over the next two years.

When cuts to benefits packages are factored in, firefighters are giving up nearly 3.5 percent.

"We've had about 400 people in the last two days show up and vote unanimously ... to cut our pay and benefits packages," said Capt. Rich Bauer of the Phoenix Firefighters Association.

According to the United Phoenix Firefighters Association, that move will save three engine companies and more than 40 jobs.

Pete Gorraiz said the Phoenix Fire Department will still lose 40 positions. Because that loss will be offset by retirements that will happen by this summer, however, it is very unlikely that any firefighters will be laid off.

The firefighters agreed to the pay cut because they believe in what they do.

"We are trying everything possible to continue with the services," said Dep. Chief Frank Salomon. "When somebody calls up 911, all the politics go out the door. ... That person needs attention. That person needs services. ... The fire chief has made it very clear that we will continue to deliver service, and we will do everything we can to get that fire truck to that house as fast as possible."

Bauer said the Phoenix Fire Department will make sure the furlough days don't affect operations or responses to emergencies.

"You're going to take a furlough day, but there will be guys placed in there to cover that truck so neighborhoods will not get ignored," he explained.

The Phoenix Fire Department, like every city department, is struggling with the city's massive budget deficit.

"The last time we had to do something like this was in 1993, when the economy was pretty bad, and we faced furlough days," Bauer said. "This time, we're taking pay cuts and furlough days to save these layoffs he city really is in a financial bind."

Throughout the city, departments have been forced to make some tough decisions, including layoffs in many cases.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association is working on a similar plan of pay cuts and furloughs for the Phoenix Police Department, which is also facing at deep cuts.