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Concessions not enough as Pa. city lays off 11 firefighters

Wilkes-Barre union boss: 'This makes me want to (expletive) puke'

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — Despite several financial concessions by firefighters, Wilkes-Barre laid off 11 of its firefighters. They were notified Thursday.

According to the Citizens Voice, the move appears to have taken Wilkes-Barre Firefighters Association President Mike Bilski by surprise.

"Having to write this e-mail makes me want to (expletive) puke," Bilski wrote in an email to firefighters. "I apologize to everyone affected by this. I (expletive) up thinking we could make a deal to save jobs and I (expletive) up telling some of you guys you were safe."

City officials were less candid about the layoffs.

In an official statement, city administrators said they would try to bring firefighters back, but did not say how many or when, the paper reported. The mayor's office also said it would not comment beyond what was in its press release.

The release did say that the mayor's office believes the layoffs will not put the public at risk. It did not say how that can be achieved, the paper reported.

Bilski told the paper that the layoffs will make maintaining minimum staffing at the fire stations very difficult when firefighters are off for holidays or vacations.

The firefighters had already given up a 3 percent pay raise, several paid holidays and $1,500 training bonuses. Earlier, five firefighters took an early retirement package as part of a plan to avoid layoffs.

This was supposed to save the city $500,000; the city is trying to close an estimated $2 million budget gap.

After this round of layoffs, the fire department is left with 53 firefighters. It had 88 firefighters in 2001 and 69 at the start of 2012, according to Citizens Voice.

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