The jobs of 13 Ann Arbor firefighters were spared tonight as the membership of the Local 693 voted to ratify a new labor contract rumored to include major concessions.
The details of the tentative agreement are not yet public, but union president Matt Schroeder confirmed the agreement includes a voluntary pay cut and offers the city significant savings - beyond what the mayor had asked for at a recent meeting.
Mayor John Hieftje has asked that all of the city's labor unions agree to take a voluntary 3 percent pay cut in the next year to help the city confront a multimillion-dollar budget deficit.
City Administrator Roger Fraser agreed to postpone the layoff of 13 firefighters for another 6 months pending ratification of the new contract. Schroeder said he's planning to make an official statement on Thursday regarding what exactly the fire department has agreed to give up for the greater good of the city.
Schroeder said the union does not disclose vote counts, but a significant number of the 80-plus firefighters who voted were in favor of ratifying the contract.
Sirens sounded outside Station One downtown shortly before 8 p.m. Wednesday night as firefighters made their way out of the station to 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 6 more months now, acknowledged there was a lot of uncertainty going into tonight's vote, as 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."
It's still uncertain what will happen to the 13 firefighters whose jobs still are on the chopping block in 6 months. Another position remains vacant, for a total of 14 positions slated to be cut.
"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."
Ryan J. Stanton covers government for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 734-623-2529.