Judge: Ill. city violated contract by cutting fire dept. staff
The Mattoon Fire Department will now be able to hire more firefighters after a judge said the city broke a contract by cutting down on their employees
By FireRescue1 Staff
MATTOON, Ill. — A fire department will soon hire more firefighters after a judge ruled that city officials violated a contract with the firefighters’ union by cutting their employee count.
Illinois Homepage reported that the Mattoon Fire Department is supposed to have more than 30 firefighters, but currently only has 24 due to the city cutting staff for budget reasons.
City officials said they have been decreasing city staff to balance the budget and close the deficit, but the fire department said they have no new firefighters to fill the shoes of those who have left their positions.
Firefighters have also had to increase their overtime to make up for the decreased staff numbers. The overtime hours jumped from 1,400 two years ago to 5,500 for this fiscal year.
"There were guys with over 600 hours of overtime for the year,” engineer Bart Owen said.
The judge’s decision will now allow the department to hire the right amount of firefighters, ruling that the city was in clear violation of the contract.
"We knew we had a really good chance; our contract is extremely cut and dry with the language,” Owen said. "It says 'shall have 30 employees' and the day it dropped below that, we said 'hey you need to keep it at that.'"
City administrator Kyle Gill said the city’s personnel costs are too high.
"Seventy-eight to 80 percent of our expenditures is personnel costs, for pensions, health insurance, wages, so that number has been climbing every year,” he said. "We can't continue down the road we're on, we've got to make changes, and the biggest one is going to be in personnel."