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Posted on Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 10:30 a.m.

Ann Arbor firefighters union approves new contract that includes voluntary pay cuts

By Ryan J. Stanton


Firefighters at Station One return from a call Wednesday night as the news is announced that a new contract for Local 693, which includes pay cuts, was approved by the union.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The jobs of 13 Ann Arbor firefighters were spared Wednesday night as the membership of Local 693 voted to ratify a new labor contract that includes a voluntary pay cut.

Union president Matt Schroeder said Local 693 members accepted a compensation package that included a 4 percent decrease in wages and a guarantee of no reductions in force through June. He pointed out the new agreement offers the city significant savings - beyond what the mayor asked for at a recent meeting.

Mayor John Hieftje has asked all of the city's labor unions to agree to take a voluntary 3 percent pay cut in the next year to help the city confront a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.

"Our membership realizes the financial crunch that our city faces and further realizes the importance of the department continuing to provide our current minimal basic services," Schroeder said.

Schroeder said while firefighters were willing to take a pay cut for the greater good of the city, considering future cutbacks that include station closures and reductions in force should not be acceptable.

"The public's safety weighed heavily in our decision-making process, and we hope it will also weigh heavily on the minds of our politcal leaders in the near future as we continue through this difficult period," he said. "We continue to look at ways to maintain the current protection in July and are looking for ways to problem solve with our leaders."

City Administrator Roger Fraser agreed to postpone the layoff of 13 firefighters for another six months, pending ratification of the new contract.


Several fire engines were parked outside Station One in downtown Ann Arbor Wednesday night during voting on the new Local 693 contract. All of the trucks left in unison shortly before 8 p.m., sounding their sirens as they headed to a call.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Schroeder said the union doesn't disclose vote counts, but a significant number of the 80-plus firefighters who voted were in favor of ratifying the contract. He said the city's firefighters have led by example and expect other labor unions and top city officials to follow suit.

"Our membership has shown its committment to our citizens by leading our peers and leadership in tough cuts," he said. "The consensus from our local is that we would hope that council and the administrator would follow our lead in accepting a 4 percent cut."

Based on a report showing base wages for Ann Arbor firefighters totaled $6.22 million last year, the city stands to save at least $249,000 a year from the 4 percent reduction. Another $509,687 was paid out in overtime and banked comp time last year, a figure that could go down, too.

Sirens sounded at Station One downtown shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday as several trucks outside the station left in unison to respond to a reported fire. Some firefighters made their way out on foot to go celebrate the contract's passage.

"We were two of the ones getting laid off," said Jon Lukosavich, joined by fellow firefighter Michael DeCraene.

The two, who will keep their jobs for at least six more months now, acknowledged there was a lot of uncertainty going into the vote since a voluntary pay cut required a gesture of good will on the part of firefighters with seniority in the union.

"It was good to see we were able to pull together," Lukosavich said. "This says that our department's willing to take a pay cut to help the city and help the citizens and make this a better city to live in. That's what we're here for is to help people. I think taking the pay cut shows that we're willing to do that. We realize that we're in tough times, so we're willing to make our sacrifice as long as everybody else makes a sacrifice, too."

The firefighters union had been without a contract since last June. The new agreement covers a one-year period from July 1, 2009, through June 30, 2010, meaning negotiations likely will pick up again this spring to hammer out a longer-term contract to carry the department beyond the current fiscal year.

It's not yet known what will happen to the 13 firefighters after June. Another position remains vacant, for a total of 14 positions possibly on the line.

"We just hope we can work with the city in the future and we can come up with an agreement to keep our citizens safe and keep us firefighters safe, and still provide a high level of service," DeCraene said. "It's important that the citizens have the staffing levels remain the same."

The elimination of 14 firefighters was included as part of the plan for cutting costs in the next fiscal year budget starting in July. But Fraser last month proposed moving the layoffs up to January to save an extra $400,000 this current fiscal year.

The city had projected general fund revenues of $86 million this year and now expects $82 million. Next year, the city had expected general fund revenues of $83 million, but now expects an amount closer to $76 million.

Fraser gathered city employees under the roof of the Michigan Theater on Tuesday to deliver news of the city's grim budget picture. At that meeting, Fraser encouraged the city's workers to try their best to stay positive and said he and other city leaders, including Ann Arbor City Council members, will do their best to make the right choices as the city looks to trim its struggling budget by millions of dollars.

With police and fire services accounting for about half of the city's general fund budget, cuts in those areas are inevitable, city leaders say.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 2:51 p.m.

And actually their heads are on the chopping block every 2 years for election. So I don't think it'll go too good for those that do not take a pay cut in the next election.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 2:48 p.m.

I have no idea what your point is there. they will end up taking a pay cut, so what exactly is your point?


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

Why should they take a pay cut? Their jobs will never be on the chopping block. Our 'leaders' don't know how to lead by example. "Do as I say, not as I do." Welcome to politics in general.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 12:14 p.m.

"is the mayor going to take a 3% pay cut too? how about city council? fraser? wouldn't that be great if they did as well. Like some show of solidarity?" It was reported on this site that Fraser said he thought all the council members would be taking a 3% cut.


Fri, Jan 15, 2010 : 11:43 a.m.

I had an emergency a few years back. HVA was the first to respond, then police, then firefighters. It was a little bit like heaven to have all those hunky men tramping around in my living room! We need them all.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:42 p.m.

is the mayor going to take a 3% pay cut too? how about city council? fraser? wouldn't that be great if they did as well. Like some show of solidarity?


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

Emergency service providers are not paid for what they do, but more so for what they know and have to be ready to do.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:15 p.m.

It's a quick jab yes, but there's some truth to it. I know it "could" happen here, and it does, but not with the regularity as in a major metropolitan area (obviously). I'm not only ready to pay that premium, but I have been, for a long time. My issue is with their contract more than anything else.

neighborhood fan

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 7:45 p.m.

@Really? And thank you for putting yourself out there every day. Bless you.

neighborhood fan

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 7:41 p.m.

Loka, VOR: As a survivor of a fire in Ann Arbor set by careless neighbors in the apartment dwelling I was in at the time, I will forever be grateful for the AAFD saving my life. Are there structural issues that need to be settled out, probably. But the lay-offs of front-line staff is the last thing we need right now. "Detroit is the highest and they should be...there are actually fires there." What a callous remark to make on so many levels. Let you in a little secret. They can happen here in Ann Arbor. It happened to me and it can happen to you, and the circumstances for it are higher than you probably think. I for one am willing to pay top (but appropriate) dollar for my neighbors and friends and loved ones to be safe and to retain what the quality of life is in Ann Arbor.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 7:36 p.m.

It's based on riding on the truck and seeing exactally when HVA shows up. Also based on HVA dispatching FD and stating they have no available rigs in the area. Unlike people who just write about their opinions and how they THINK things work. I'm doing the job and can tell you first hand that we beat the ambulance. Not on EVERY call, but most. I'm sure you'd like to see a pretty spreadsheet with every call calculated out. Sorry, I'm not a paper pusher. You can take it from someone doing the job, or you can just listen to every else who thinks they know how the system works.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 5:17 p.m.

"Quit your whining, pay your taxes and enjoy the best service available anywhere." Wow service anywhere...bold claim.

Harry G. Bentz

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

My 95 year-old mother suffered chest pains last Sunday and because of the location of the fire house on Platt Rd. the fire truck arrived almost 8 minutes before the ambulance. Top notch professional rescue workers require training experience and leadership. The professionals that responded were the best I could ever imagine. Do you want to subject your elderly mother or children or anyone you care for to less? At a time of crisis it is sure reassuring to see SOMEBODY in control. Quit your whining, pay your taxes and enjoy the best service available anywhere.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 4:39 p.m.

I for one am thankful that this was worked out. Our safety forces risk life and limb for us EVERY DAY! I just hope that the City Administration will also share in the "For the Good of the City" with an equivalent cut in pay.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 3:48 p.m.

FF are great and i would love to keep as many as possible....and they're going to have to make concessions to do it. That's as simple as I can make it and almost everyone is going to have to do it at every job. And let's be honest, a 3% pay cut isn't going to bankrupt you. In almost every single case this happens to bargening employess the 3% would have been made up in the next year. You're basically giving away the 3% raise you were going to get next you're even. It's going to come down to the Unions having agree to make concessions. would you rather pay twice as much for a co-pay or see people around you losing jobs?

Alisa Lee

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 3:27 p.m.

I think what the Ann Arbor firefighters are doing is very great. This way, more people are able to keep their jobs and they are also able to save money. It seems pretty much to be a win-win situation!


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 3:18 p.m.

Is there really anytime ever that there isn't an Ambulance in Ann Arbor? I mean come on. Fire Trucks don't take people to the hospital do they? They may but sure haven't seen it. So do Fire trucks have crash carts and all that medical stuff on board? I hope they do so they don't have to sit there and chest compress me till an ambulance makes it in from another town. That's just a little nit picking there but I understand what you're saying. Of course we need FF but their contracts are out of control and we all know it. How much OT does did the average FF make this year? I can tell you how much I made = 0


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

@Loka, fire stations are placed in cities based on GIS studies that determine the best coverage and response times. You never know where an HVA rig is, or if there's even on in the city at the time you call. Fire engines beat HVA to over 80% of the medical calls that HVA dispatches them to. So if you have a heart attack, do you want a fire truck coming that you KNOW is in the city and placed there for the fastest response time, or do you want to wait for an HVA rig from an unknown location and then hope there's one in the city at that time. You going to make that decision for tell the fire fighters you don't want their help when you're in need? You going to do that for your children? Going to make that decision for the other residents children in the city? God forbid you ever have a heart attack... but if you do, when you come to, take a good look that the uniforms of the people on your chest and breathing for you. Thier badges will say Ann Arbor Fire Department.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 2:33 p.m.

BornNRaised, I never said they "make over $100,000 a year", I said "compensated over $100,000". These numbers came directly from the spreadsheet. If the city is publishing false information, perhaps you have a case against them.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

If my house was on fire yes, CPR I can let HVA do that.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 2:17 p.m.

BenWoodruff, Thats not what I am implying at all. I don't think individual firefighters are overpaid. I just don't believe it is necessary for one guy to administer CPR to me while two others stand there and watch......


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 2:01 p.m.

voiceofreason, if your house was on fire or you needed cpr, i'll bet you'd be glad to pay $100,000 for competent, professional help...


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

After looking at the salary/benefits chart, it is obvious why the AAFD is being targeted for budget cuts. For a city with relatively few fires and emergencies, it is simply not justified to have 60+ people being compensated over $100,000 to preform this duty. I am not blaming the firefighters, because they are hardworking people who seem devoted to the job. The blame must be placed on city administrators for allowing this excessive bloat in the first place.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 1:40 p.m.

@ethics advocate, why not try bieng a fact advocate as well, you could not have been further off base.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

It is unfortunate that for the money they have gave up, the AAFD could not get more time from the city, say 1.5 to 2 years. It was a noble effort indeed by the firefighters, never the less a bit foolish not to negotiate more time. Now they are down 4% in pay, their buddies jobs are still on the line and will be strong armed once again by the city in about 5 months. Good luck AAFD

Ryan J. Stanton

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 1:11 p.m.

Here are actual salaries of Ann Arbor firefighters: Also, check the fire department wage report linked in my story.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 12:50 p.m.

Detroit is the highest and they should be...there are actually fires there.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

Enjoy the layoffs in July.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 12:08 p.m.

Ethics Advocate, How about you document how you KNOW that the Ann Arbor firefighters are the best paid in the state. Nice to throw out a statement like that. I challenge you to back it up.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 10:55 a.m.

@ LifelongA2 The over all 3% cut was suggested by the Mayor. What the fire fighters did should apply to all departments. Cut out the urinal project at City Hall.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

Taking this pay cut. Is a fine gesture on the part of the fire fighters. But the only way layoffs can be prevented this summer. Is if the city council says so. They decide how money is spent. If the firefighters were celebrating. Then I'll never understand those guys.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 10:01 a.m.

Congrats to the Fire Department for coming together at this important time to keep their co-workers on the job in such a tough labor market. Their selflessness shows time and time again. It is now time for the city and people in this community to come together and decide what is important and where the next round of cuts needs to be. Do we really need more art statues and murals around the city, or do we need to make sure that our Fire and Police Departments stay intact. The city wasted millions of dollars over the botched old YMCA building - can we afford mistakes like this anymore? We are asked to increase our taxes year after year by threatening us with cuts from every angle - Fire safety, education... enough. Let's start making choices that keep this community viable and keep it safe so people want to move back home to Michigan!

Ethics Advocate

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:42 a.m.

I'm glad the union agreed to this. I would have been upset if they hadn't because, the last I knew, the AA firefighters were the best paid in the state.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 9:16 a.m.

The firefighters won't get the 3% back in July. The contract will expire, but the terms will stay in place.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:56 a.m.

63 Townie, you are so right. this agreement is only good until july. Then the city will be asking the fire department to make more concessions. If they don't bye bye firefighters.

Lifelong A2

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:51 a.m.

63 Townie: It's unclear how long the union's pay concessions will remain in place. If the pay concessions only last for six months, then it would make sense for the firefighters to be laid off when those concessions end. If, on the other hand, the concessions last beyond the 6-month period, then I agree it would make sense to keep the firefighters beyond the 6-month period.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

"City Administrator Roger Fraser agreed to postpone the layoff of 13 firefighters for another six months..." The key word here is "postpone". Don't think for a minute Fraser won't look to lay-off these people in July.

Lifelong A2

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:40 a.m.

This is good news. The firefighters have demonstrated that they are truly committed to doing what's best for the City. Kudos to the Mayor for taking the lead on this and calling for these concessions. Now it's time for the City's other unions to step up. Their silence, so far, has been deafening... The comments about pay cuts for the Council members and the City Administrator are a little absurd. The Councilmembers barely make any money, and they receive no health insurance, pension, or other benefits (which are paid to County Commissioners). The City Administrator is just one person. I agree that they should take the same 3% cut as everyone else as a ceremonial gesture, but the savings will be piddly.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 8:35 a.m.

I applaud the Ann Arbor firefighters for doing this. However, I would still advise the 13 firefighters to use this time to search for alternate employment. It is difficult for me to imagine the budget mess being any better next year.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 7:44 a.m.

Thank you A2 Firefighters! Not only do you sacrifice your lives, but you have shown a sacrifice for your co-workers and the citizens. Now its time for Fraser and council to step up and take the suggested 3 percent pay cut.


Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 6:21 a.m.

Five months and thirteen days until the City lays of those firefighters. Lets see if they get around to cuts for council or Fraser before that time. Or ever.

Rooted in A2

Thu, Jan 14, 2010 : 1:21 a.m.

haha Well I am thankful for all of these firefighters and admire their selflessness and willingness to to get by on less for the sake of our city and for each other.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 10:27 p.m.

We should lay off the Mayor and Roger fraser.And stop laying of the police and fireman.

Ryan J. Stanton

Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:40 p.m.

@Really? Thanks. That's what we found out, too.


Wed, Jan 13, 2010 : 9:19 p.m.

The sirens weren't a celebration. The FD was going to a reported structure fire.