Ohio firefighters to meet with mayor about ongoing staffing talks
Union and Toledo city officials have been in contract talks since May, as the department struggles to meet minimum staffing requirements
TOLEDO, Ohio — Six Toledo firefighters and members of Local 92 attended a news conference called by Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz on Wednesday to hear him speak about a new citywide initiative to reduce motorist and pedestrian deaths.
"This initiative obviously is important for safety," Local 92 Vice President Matt Tabb said. "Toledo firefighters are also concerned about safety. That's why we're here. We've been trying to contact the mayor about our staffing issues."
Mr. Kapszukiewicz was scheduled to speak at the news conference, but he didn't show.
He was tied up dealing with a state budget issue, city spokesman Ignazio Messina said. Gov. Mike DeWine is set to sign the state's budget bill Wednesday evening.
The union and the city administration have been in contract negotiations since early May, and low staffing is a big issue. On Monday, the department again fell short of meeting its minimum staffing level of 113, despite 46 firefighters coming in on their day off. The department has 481 firefighters, not including those out on leave or on training detail, and staffing should be at 575, union leaders said.
Local 92 President Dan Desmond said the two parties broached the topic of staffing in discussions June 24. Mr. Desmond said he and others aren't satisfied with what he characterized as a "non-answer" from Toledo Fire & Rescue Department leadership regarding accelerating the hiring process for new recruits.
The next day, the union put up a message to the public on its large Erie Street billboard: "Your fire dept. is dangerously understaffed today."
Mr. Tabb and Mr. Desmond said they'd been trying to contact the mayor to discuss staffing and safety issues with him directly. Tuesday evening, their lawyer, Donato Iorio with Kalniz, Iorio & Reardon Co., received an email from David Smigelski, with Spengler Nathanson, the firm city officials hired to handle bargaining.
Mr. Smigelski wrote that he was aware union leaders were attempting to contact the mayor, and he would appreciate it if all communications concerning bargaining be directed to him.
"I have advised the Mayor not to participate in direct-dealing so as to avoid the commission of an unfair labor practice. I would ask that you do the same for those you represent," he wrote.
The firefighters expressed frustration at Mr. Kapszukiewicz's no-show at Wednesday's news conference, but Mr. Tabb said the mayor called union leaders later that day and agreed to set up a meeting.
According to Mr. Tabb, the mayor apologized for not reaching out sooner and said lines of communication should always be open between his administration and Local 92.
Mr. Messina confirmed the mayor reached out to union leadership.
"We get more things done working together than we do fighting over stuff. The mayor assures us that's what we're going to do," Mr. Tabb said.
First Published June 30, 2021, 5:27pm
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