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April 11, 2012 11:14 PM UTC

City, Firefighters Reach Budget Gap Agreement

  • 1 Comments
  • by: Colorado Pols

One of the very perceptible human impacts of dwindling city budgets is that employees critical to public safety – firefighters and police officers, namely – are being forced to do more with less.  While budget shortfalls often inflame short tempers, the entire negotiation process works better when all parties recognize that money for pay raises, vacations, and health insurance can be better used in the provision of actual public service. With firefighters, that service saves lives.

In the case of Denver’s recent negotiations with Denver Firefighters Local 858, it’s clear that the union and the city alike recognized that public safety can trump keeping everybody happy.

From Denver Mayor Michael Hancock:

City, Firefighters Reach Agreement to Create a Sustainable Denver

DENVER – Mayor Michael B. Hancock, Denver Firefighters Local 858 President Mike Rogers and City Council President Chris Nevitt today announced they’ve reached an agreement that will save the City’s general fund $6 million.

Negotiations to alter a collective bargaining agreement this year were conducted against the backdrop of an anticipated $94 million budget shortfall for 2013, including a persistent structural gap of $30 million.

To help close the budget gap and create a sustainable City structure, Local 858 and city officials came to an agreement that will preserve the high level of safety services to the community while making significant organizational changes and operational efficiencies within the Denver Fire Department.

The agreement was negotiated over a 30-day period and was ratified by voting union members during the first week in April. City officials and Local 858 acknowledged the high level of collaboration conducted to finalize the 2013-2015 collective bargaining agreement with the firefighters’ union.

The following statements were released:

“Denver’s firefighters have boldly led the charge, continuing to make sacrifices necessary to balancing the City’s budget while maintaining our high-quality services to Denver’s residents, neighborhoods and businesses,” Mayor Hancock said. “This year they’ve gone above and beyond their duty to serve their community by making tough, long-term decisions that will increase efficiencies and effectiveness in the department and create a more sustainable Denver. We are grateful for Local 858’s extraordinary leadership.”

“Local 858 is truly dedicated to our community, understanding that in these tough economic times difficult decisions are critical to put our City on a sustainable path. And we will always go the extra mile to protect and serve our City,” Local 858 President Mike Rogers said. “We’re proud to work with the Hancock Administration and city officials to make our contribution to the shared sacrifices needed to drive operational efficiencies and fix the structural imbalance that exists within the City’s budget. We know that by working together we will all deliver a better city for future generations.”

“City Council is very proud of the Hancock Administration and Local 858’s collaboration, getting us to a record level of cost savings to the City and County of Denver in these difficult budgetary times while still meeting the needs of our fire fighters,” City Council President Chris Nevitt said. “Not only do these brave men and women serve our community every day with pride and dedication but they continue to lead the charge to set us on the right path of both fairness and fiscal prudence.”

As Jeremy Myers notes in a blog post for the Denver paper, the all-around amicability and success of these negotiations will frame the discourse when other public safety unions have their turn at the table. For their part, both Hancock and City Council President Chris Nevitt can take credit for the civility of discourse in what could otherwise be a very messy process.

This is government and negotiation done right, folks.  

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