Dec. 22, 2003 The fight for firefighters' raises "has just begun," said firefighters' union president Daryl George Monday morning. George has asked for and is currently receiving support from the International Association of Firefighters based in Washington, D.C.
Harold A. Schaitberger, general president of the IAFF, wrote Gov. Charles W. Turnbull on Thursday. In his letter he pulls no punches.
After recapping the governor's history of vetoes on legislation to give the firefighters negotiated raises, Schaitberger's letter states: "Your failure to respect your own government's contract with the firefighters represents only the latest in a series of delays and excuses that appear to be designed to retaliate against the very men and women who risk their personal safety to protect your citizens." (See "Vetoes include funding for firefighters' raises".)
George, president of IAFF Local 2125, said Monday this is just the beginning of the fight if the governor vetoes the money put aside in the miscellaneous section of the Fiscal Year 2004 budget on his desk now. The budget bills must be signed by midnight Tuesday.
George says the union will definitely have help if the raises are not forthcoming. "If the governor doesn't sign, we have alternate plans. My union in the States has gotten more involved. They did a preview of our budget, and they say we don't have a financial problem; we have a management problem. They see where we have a lot of waste and mismanagement," he said. "They are coming to give us a hand, though they hope we could settle this amicably."
In his letter Schaitberger scoffed at the notion that the government's "financial crisis" prevented him from issuing the raises. "The facts simply do not support your alarmist claim," he told Turnbull. "I find it hard to believe you are overly concerned with a purported fiscal crisis when you handed your cabinet members a 50 percent raise just ten months earlier."
In his letter Schaitberger urged the governor to support legislation sponsored by Sen. Carlton Dowe in the Senate's last budget session in which Dowe successfully moved that the $12 million appropriation in the miscellaneous section of the executive budget be allotted no more than 90 days after the bill's approval.
Although Turnbull could use a line-item veto to remove the amendment, the Senate likely has enough votes to override the veto.
Finally, Schaitberger told the governor, "You should know that the IAFF stands squarely behind our members, and will do what is necessary to support them in their struggle for better wages. We have instructed our attorneys to review this matter. In the meantime, we trust you will reconsider your treatment of Local 2125 and its firefighters whom you are targeting for unfair treatment."
Lee Vanterpool, government house public information officer, said Monday morning that James O 'Bryan, the governor's spokesman, has not yet seen the letter, and could not comment at this time.
George said things are going to be different next year. "You are going to see a whole new aspect of union and government structure. With the government's waste and corruption, something's got to give. Come Jan. 1, the exempt employees the governor took the 10 percent cut from will be getting it back."
Last July the governor enacted a six-month rollback of salaries — between 2 and 10 percent, depending on current levels — for any exempt employee making more than $40,000 a year. (See "Governor offers small pay cuts for six months".)
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