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Posted on Mon, May 17, 2010 : 2:24 p.m.

Ann Arbor firefighters union president says 'we cannot afford fewer firefighters, period'

By Ryan J. Stanton

Ann Arbor's police and fire services will be spared from deep cuts tonight if changes to the city's 2010-11 budget go through as expected.


Matt Schroeder

The plan proposed by Mayor John Hieftje and other council members would cut only five vacant positions in the police department instead of the 20 positions previously proposed. But on the fire services side, four of the five positions still left on the chopping block are held by firefighters who face potential layoff.

Hieftje said layoffs can be avoided if four senior firefighters retire, but the union came out in opposition today to any cuts.

"I stand by the fact that we cannot afford fewer firefighters, period," said Matt Schroeder, president of the firefighters union. "We still need those people to fully protect the citizens of Ann Arbor, to provide the same level of service that we currently do."

Schroeder said over the weekend that losing five positions would be manageable in terms of daily staffing. But he expanded on that statement today to say it would take increased overtime costs, and he remains opposed to any cuts.

Schroeder noted the firefighters union was the only city labor group to agree to a voluntary 3 percent pay cut requested by the mayor in recent months. The union also agreed to contribute an additional 1 percent of pay toward pension costs.

"Our local is the only one to give back to the city, and we are the only group on the chopping block," Schroeder said. "We bargained in good faith and council has proposed cuts anyway. We have been diligent in our effort to educate council what citizens need, but they have chosen to disregard our recommendations."

Fire Chief Dominick Lanza sent an e-mail to the entire fire department on Thursday in anticipation of tonight's Ann Arbor City Council meeting, where the budget will be voted on. He said there still was a chance the budget could go through as recommended by the city administrator — with 20 position eliminations in fire, one of which is currently vacant.

"Loss of 19 people no matter what their individual jobs are would drastically affect the way we conduct business at all levels," Lanza wrote in his e-mail.

Lanza said once the budget is approved tonight, the full impact on the fire department will be known. He's planning to take that information and "move forward to continue to perform excellent service to the community we serve."

"No matter what the final decision, we will definitely conduct business in a different way than we do today," he said.

Lanza is planning a town hall meeting with the entire staff of the fire department at 10 a.m. Wednesday at the downtown fire station. The topic of conversation will be the future of the fire department and what changes everyone can expect.

"I would add that whatever decision is made to reduce the number of employees is most likely not the end of this issue," he said. "Our only option is to rethink what we do and how we accomplish the tasks we are all here to do."

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


Rod Johnson

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 10 p.m.

"How many of us would want to retire before we are 50?" Seriously? Pick me!


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 8:01 p.m.

There never was a promise to not have cuts at the last agreement. Really, it was just a way to avoid cuts at that time. All of this talk regarding false promises is - frankly - false. The FD is averaging 0.7 fire calls per day. Perhaps they are busy, but not busy responding to fires. I would think some work should be done ensuring the FD responds to their core function - fighting fires - and reduce staff to meet this function. Other calls should be examined for alternate sources that could be more cost effective.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 6:31 p.m.

"I have never been a union worker but my understanding was everyone pays dues so that they are ALL represented regardless of age." It's a very simple concept that works on seniority. Everyone is being represented in many differnet ways. Speaking about job eliminations, those with the least amount of seniority are the ones that go first. Buying out people's contracts are a way of appeasing people by giving everyone a more "fair deal."

Steve Bean

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 5:59 p.m.

"We bargained in good faith and council has proposed cuts anyway."--Matt Schroeder Just by way of clarification, the administrator proposed the cuts, not city council.

csi junkies

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 5:52 p.m.

I'm under the impression that for firefighters it is 25 yrs and they can retire? Maybe I'm wrong? But that means some maybe in there 40's and Mr. Schroeder seems to be turning his back on them. How many of us would want to retire before we are 50? That is what I was offended by. Do you know how hard it is for someone in that age group to get a job these days? Any job......they want young people that they don't have to pay for any life experience. By the way I am 47 and have many relatives in ALL areas out of work and have been looking for a job for over a year. I have never been a union worker but my understanding was everyone pays dues so that they are ALL represented regardless of age.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 5:27 p.m.

Fire Fighters perform a vital service but there are fewer fires than there used be and these are the toughest times in 80 years. They also have great benefits and can retire at 50. FF's are being laid off or giving concessions all over the state. Look at Ypsi. Seems like council has set the bar pretty high. If the fire chief says they can keep the stations open and maintain response times why would the city carry more fire fighters than needed? If the older FF who can retire care about their fellow union members then they should retire.

csi junkies

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 5:22 p.m.

I apologise for not making my self more clear. What I found offensive was saying the department had so much invested in the younger firefighters. I do believe they are all given the same training so to pit oldest against youngest is what I found offensive and wrong.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 4:53 p.m.

Depends if you thik taking an early retirement is "getting the shaft." You cannot force people to retire. If they do not and it's not a specific set of job title criteria then the lowest senior employees will be layed-off; or "getting the shaft."

csi junkies

Mon, May 17, 2010 : 4:45 p.m.

I also noticed that yesterday's article mentioned retirement of potentionally 7 firefighters, how old are they and do they really want to retire? You mention how the city has a lot invested in the younger firefighters but is it not the same for the older experienced firefighters? I'm assuming experience should count for something. I believe M. Schroeder whom is supposed to be their Union President is looking at the older firefighters to take the hit when some of these people are probably in their 40's.....should you not be looking out for all your union members as a whole? I don't have a dog in this race but as someone whom feels that the experienced workers keep getting the shaft due to younger workers working for less I'm tired of seeing this continue.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 4:15 p.m.

What else is he going to say?


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 3:52 p.m.

"When this appeared in January, I was kind of surprised at the "through June" part. Seems it was clear the agreement the union agreed to was to protect some jobs only through June. Has the city violated that agreement?" At that time the "through june" part meant becasue the current contract/budget was coming up in June. So the FF took the cut to save some jobs for a time. Then I believe the new budget came out and had added 4-6 additional lay offs that were never talked about. That's my understanding anyway.


Mon, May 17, 2010 : 2:43 p.m.

I really admire and respect public safety union president's who speak out publicly over issues. Kudos to you Matthew. I do have a couple points on this issue. Per the article in the link: "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." When this appeared in January, I was kind of surprised at the "through June" part. Seems it was clear the agreement the union agreed to was to protect some jobs only through June. Has the city violated that agreement? And Mr. Schroeder says his local is the only one on the chopping block. The police too right? Is this true? Is no other city department facing cuts? I'd like to see a list of each city department and the budgeting. See where the $ goes. AAFD and AAPD are excellent departments. During my years of public safety work (elsewhere), I always felt the city did not treat them well. Apparently nothing has changed. We should dedicate the million dollar fountain to those laid off at FD and PD.