Fire union president: 'We get a raw deal'
The president of York City's firefighters union said he and the union are unhappy with Mayor Kim Bracey's administration.
"It just feels like they keep coming after us and coming after us," said Fred DeSantis, the union president.
The union — the York Professional Fire Fighters Association Local No. 627 of the International Association of Firefighters — posted Aug. 2 on Facebook that the city "continues to attack our members."
When reached by phone Friday, DeSantis elaborated, first saying his union feels slighted by what he sees as the administration's lack of public recognition for the pension cuts the union agreed to.
"We pushed for the deal to help the city out," he said.
The latest contract was finalized in 2014, but recently, DeSantis said, all of the current retired union members agreed to pension cuts matching those the union agreed future retirees will face. DeSantis said it was on each of the individual retirees to agree to that, and they all did, accepting a $300 to $500 cut per person, per year.
"They lost money in the deal," he said.
DeSantis said his union accepted the same terms as the local police union did to decrease the city's pension burden. But, he said, the administration was quick and happy to pat the police union's back through op-eds and public statements — and that hasn't happened with the fire union.
"You would think we would get credit for that like the cops did," he said, noting that he was not intending to slight the police department, which he believes does a good job.
DeSantis also said he and other union members are angry because this is the latest in a pattern of what they see as the city administration treating them poorly.
"We feel we don't have a fair shake with the administration," he said. "We get a raw deal about the thing."
When reached via text message, Bracey declined to comment.
York City Fire Chief David Michaels said he doesn't feel the same way as DeSantis does — he doesn't believe there's a pattern of his department getting the short end of the stick.
"I'm kind of caught off guard here," he said. "I don't know why they'd put that."
City Council Vice President Michael Helfrich said it was hard for him to comment at too much length because council members aren't in the room for contract negotiations but that he'd heard similar complaints before.
"I definitely believe the people who risk their lives to save our lives and property should always be dealt with fairly and honestly," he said. "And I know they feel like they haven't been."
DeSantis cited the layoffs of firefighters over the years, including when four of the department's firefighters were laid off at the start of 2015 but were later called back to work when the department received a federal grant. DeSantis said the city employed 76 firefighters when he started out, but over many years cuts have taken their toll. The municipality only budgeted for 53 fire department employees in 2016; six years ago, when Bracey took office, it budgeted for 69.
Other departments have seen cuts, too — as part of Bracey's efforts to cut government spending and lower taxes, the city government workforce has dropped from 427 to 358, including a drop in police department employees from 152 to 119.
DeSantis acknowledged the city's financial woes, but said he, as a city taxpayer, was fine with the high level of taxes if it meant the public-safety services were well funded.
"I choose to live here because I got good police and fire protection," he said.