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Union says no layoffs, freezes



Published: Mon, November 5, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



Mayor James Melfi says city workers don't fully understand the city's financial problem.

By TIM YOVICH

VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF

GIRARD -- City workers aren't interested in layoffs or a pay freeze to help get the city out of debt, their union leaders say.

"We'll be glad to do our share. Why should we bail them out?" asked patrol Officer Dan Rau, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 52.

The city is expected to end the year $1 million in the red, despite cost-cutting measures.

The city has been under a state-imposed fiscal emergency since Aug. 8, primarily because of its long-term debt.

Mayor James Melfi and Frank Rich, city director of safety and human resources, have met with members of the FOP, International Association of Firefighters Local 1220 and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3356 to discuss cost-saving measures.

Leaders of the safety forces say they aren't interested in cutting jobs or freezing wages -- ever.

Union employees agreed effective Jan. 1 to a 3.5 percent pay raise this year, 3.25 percent in 2001 and 3.5 percent in 2002.

Elizabeth Zagorski, president of Local 3356, which represents 39 workers other than safety-forces employees, said her union has no official position on layoffs or a wage freeze until she sees the long-range recovery plan being prepared by Melfi.

Zagorski said, however, that her members are "against giving up anything at this point" after informal discussions with them.

Zagorski said she won't take any issues involving concessions to her membership until after Melfi presents his plan.

How mayor sees it: Melfi said there must be some sort of layoffs to reduce the deficit.

"It's not pleasant to us. The public paid for the services through the income tax," the mayor said.

He termed providing services and reducing the deficit as a "difficult balancing act."

Melfi, however, isn't as firm when it comes to a wage freeze, noting that will depend on the type of cost-cutting package that is put together.

The mayor pointed out city managers aren't receiving raises, but admits there are only five of them. That will save only about $6,000.

"The employees don't fully understand the situation," Melfi asserted, noting he will be meeting with them to provide more information.

"We're opposed to giving anything back," Rau maintained.

Rau, who represents 22 police officers, said dispatching and patrol officer positions remain vacant, and the city wants to furlough a second patrol officer.

Rather, the FOP president said, there should be a reduction in administrators. Such a proposal failed to get city council approval.

"There are ways to generate money," Rau added.

He suggested the sale of Upper and Lower Girard lakes for development, with the city not losing any money in the process. Girard had purchased these lakes as a water supply, but plans to use them became too expensive and fell through.

Like Rau, Firefighter Phil Cretella Jr., Local 1220 president, is against any layoffs or wage freeze.

"We don't plan to give anything up," said Cretella, who represents 16 full-time firefighters.

He said the mayor has said the deficit is not the fault of city employees, and he agrees.

yovich@vindy.com




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