Firefighters in Lawrence have ratified a one-year contract with the city that makes serious concessions in order to get back about a third of the positions the department lost in July due to layoffs.
Twenty-three of the city’s 100 firefighters were laid off on July 1 as the city attempts, under state guidance, to emerge from a $25 million budget deficit. Eight will be rehired after last night’s concession announcement.
"The Lawrence firefighters’ priority has always been first and foremost to protect the citizens who live and work in this city," said Patrick Driscoll, president of Local 146. "Our members were willing to make concessions to better staff the department for the overall safety of Lawrence. We look forward to putting the negotiation process behind us and working to fully restore the additional 15 positions lost this past July."
The contract ends four months of negotiations.
As part of the contract, Lawrence Firefighters Local 146 members offered and agreed to the following concessions for FY11:
- Firefighters will work 24 hours unpaid overtime
- Firefighters will give back a 2 percent training stipend for attending the Massachusetts Fire Academy
- Firefighters will give up a one-week vacation buyback
The fire union has also applied for a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response) grant to help restore some of the positions lost to layoffs. Grant recipients will be announced later this fall.
Staffing is still at a nearly all-time low. The city of 72,000, spread over eight square miles, has fewer firefighters working at any given moment than most of the small towns that surround it.
Lawrence has had to rely on extensive mutual aid for even minor fires. This has led to some conflict with communities, who resent having to use their own sparse resources to bail Lawrence out.
“We are grateful to our brother and sister firefighters from across the region who stepped in to help this summer when multiple alarm fires challenged a dangerously small staff,” Driscoll said. “No lives were lost and that is testament to the bravery and commitment of our colleagues."
An alleged arsonist also lit about a dozen fires among the Merrimac River in August. Police arrested a homeless man in that case.