By Charles Sercombe
The last part of the city’s financial survival puzzle has been put into place.
Hamtramck’s firefighters’ union has agreed to changes in their contract and also agreed to not take a 3 percent pay raise to prevent the layoff of up to 16 firefighters this year. The deal will save the city at least $90,000 this year, said City Manager Bill Cooper.
Firefighters said they agreed to the concession to not only save jobs but to also preserve the city’s safety level.
“In these trying times, we thought it would be in everyone’s best interest to work with the city and Mr. Cooper rather than risk the safety and well being of the people of Hamtramck,” said Hamtramck Firefighters Union President Bill Dickens. “The same great fire protection and EMS care that the people of Hamtramck expect and deserve will continue and we look forward to a brighter tomorrow for Hamtramck.”
Cooper had asked the city’s four labor unions to make contract concessions to help whittle down a projected $4.3 million deficit for the next three years.
None of the other unions agreed to contract cuts, but the police officers’ union saved their jobs by guaranteeing to bring in at least $60,000 a month in traffic ticket revenue.
The union representing city employees, AFSCME Local 666, declined to take cuts or other concessions. Union member Carl Nevinski said his union had previously agreed to huge cuts when the city was under the control of a state-appointed financial manager.
Cooper cautioned that even with contract concessions, there could be unforeseen financial trouble from more state revenue cutbacks. The state hasn’t announced further cuts to cities but there has been talk of more to come.
“We’re going to be revisiting the budget on a monthly basis,” Cooper said. “Our financial stability will remain fragile for at least the next two to three years.”
The firefighters’ contract concession calls for union members to forfeit their pay for holidays when they have to work. Instead, they will get an extra day off. The deal is only for one year.
While Hamtramck is going through hard financial times, the city is much better off compared to other communities that are reeling from multi-million dollar deficits. Cities like Ferndale are considering massive city employee layoffs.
Other cities have closed down their police and fire departments and contracted those services out to neighboring communities or with their county agencies.