SPRINGFIELD — Some 100 firefighters demanded COVID-19 merit pay on the steps of
In response, Sarno said he was not surprised by the “antics” of four city councilors involved in scheduling the protest, but disappointed the firefighters’ union leadership was allowing itself to be used as a “political pawn.”
“We want them paid, and we want them paid immediately,” Hurst said. “It shouldn’t take this long when you have given the nonbargaining employees the merit pay over a month ago.”
“No one has been more supportive of our public safety divisions than myself and my administration,” Sarno said in a statement. “I wonder how the rank and file of the
He added, “By the way, our
Jacobs said the reduction in responses to calls was due to a city change in policy aimed at making firefighters safer.
Six other councilors submitted a joint statement Tuesday afternoon saying that, in fairness to all city employees, “we cannot support the approach taken by a few of our colleagues through recent press releases and planned public events.”
“Their demand that certain workers receive merit pay immediately and outside of the collective bargaining is irresponsible and sends the wrong message to our unions, employees, and residents,” the letter stated. “Determining how to administer merit pay for municipal workers should be about having a fair and transparent process. This takes time and diligence and should be done with care and thoughtfulness.”
The statement was issued by Council President
Sarno said that, under collective bargaining law, any changes in pay or working conditions must be negotiated with unions, whereas the merit pay can be given without negotiations to the nonbargaining supervisors and employees.
A proposed memorandum of agreement with firefighters included a list of 12 conditions for the merit pay, including that the amount would be reduced for certain firefighters who had extended sick leave and/or were out of work related to COVID for more than 14 days.
Sarno announced Tuesday that he had reached an agreement with another union, the United
Approximately 250 nonbargaining city supervisors and employees have received the merit pay thus far, totaling nearly
The merit pay is being granted to city employees deemed by cabinet heads and the mayor as providing essential services and going above and beyond the call of duty, city officials said. It is funded by federal COVID-19 relief funds.
Hurst was joined at Tuesday’s demonstration by Councilors
Whitfield questioned “the audacity” of Sarno in his treatment of the merit pay issue for firefighters, who she said “put their lives on the line, put their families’ lives in danger.”
“I’m a little disgusted that I have to be here because of the bargaining that has been going on with the local firefighters union,” Whitfield said. “We’re not here for antics or political pawn as the mayor would put in his written press release. We are here because this is where we are supposed to be. We are supposed to be here fighting for these firefighters. At the drop of a dime, they fight for us.”
Davila also praised the service of firefighters under the added strain of COVID-19.
“Mr. Mayor, in the name of public safety, in the name of honor, duty and sacrifice, I demand respect for the firefighters,” Davila said. “The firefighters are not receiving a gift. They are being compensated for their exposure to danger, again in this case, COVID-19.”
Walsh said firefighters defend people’s homes, and that their right to protest is protected by the
“I see this as a fairness issue,” Walsh said.
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