Firefighters follow through on pledge

New contract is mission accomplished

Kudos in advance—and once again—to the Chico firefighters who, as the CN&R went to press, were casting votes in favor of the amended contract their union worked out with City Hall (see Newslines). By declining for two years the raises they received in their most recent labor agreement, along with accepting lower starting salaries and paying a share of their health benefits, they followed through on their pledge to help the city address its budget shortfall.

Barring a snag in the paperwork process, City Council members will get the fire contract this afternoon (Jan. 29) and vote on it Tuesday (Feb. 3), making the city eight for eight in renegotiating with its employee bargaining units.

That the IAFF negotiations dragged on months after the firefighters first made their pledge—and received raves for it—will be a footnote in the long run. So, too, will be the layoff notices that accelerated this resolution. What matters is that all city employees have acknowledged that Chico has limited resources and hard times call for hard choices.

Hard times also call for creative thinking, which is why we’re surprised to see an idea rejected last June as part of the firefighter agreement. On the Finance Committee, Councilman Larry Wahl inquired about a two-tier pay-and-benefits system. City staff expressed concerns about its feasibility, and the committee—then the council—took other tacks.

Fair enough … but the 5 percent reduction to new firefighters’ salaries sure sounds like a two-tier system. Did a fundamental shift occur the past seven months? If so, we think some reassessment is in order.