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Layoffs might be approved Monday

DeKALB – City aldermen could approve layoffs of three city workers during a special DeKalb City Council meeting that has been scheduled for Monday night.

The meeting was scheduled three days after the council began the layoff process for three firefighters – members of a different union – and six days before the next fiscal year begins.

Unions are under pressure from the city to trim costs in order to save jobs. Earlier this week, the city approved a budget that is dependent on either the cost reductions or layoffs, or a combination of both.

The American Federation of State, County and Munic-ipal Employees Local 813 met Wednesday evening, and members voted unanimously to uphold their contract, Local President Mike Taylor said. That means the union has rejected cost reductions – and now three members face layoffs.

“The membership felt that without a guarantee of no layoffs, then we would honor the contract,” Taylor said.

When the city council met earlier this week, the AFSCME local and the city appeared close to an agreement.

“Last Monday we felt we were close enough to make something happen,” DeKalb City Manager Mark Biernacki said. “Between now and then that proposal has been taken to membership and they rejected it.”

AFSCME representatives have said they would accept the city’s request that the group – about 71 workers in public works, telecommunications, finance and other departments – not take a pay raise for one year as long as there are no layoffs for the remainder of the contract term. The contract expires Dec. 31, 2010.

AFSCME is one of four employee groups that had been asked to forgo raises for the 2010 fiscal year in order to have a balanced budget. Savings from all four groups – management, police, fire and AFSCME – would equate about $480,000, city officials have said, and layoffs would follow if those wage concessions were not made.

Firefighters, city move closer to agreement

While the city and AFSCME appeared to move further apart, the firefighters’ union and the city appeared closer to an agreement.

The DeKalb City Council on Monday authorized the layoff of three firefighters. But the union has since met with the city and made a new offer.

The executive board of the International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1236 met with Biernacki Thursday morning with a new offer, a monetary value exceeding $300,000, Local President Mike Thomas said.

“Basically what we’re trying to do is show a real dollars savings,” Thomas said. “We feel we’ve done that.”

Originally, the union offered to take no raise in salary for the first 11 months of Fiscal Year 2010, from July 2009 through May 2010. In June 2010, firefighters would get a 4-percent raise. In July 2010, they would get another 4-percent raise.

Thomas said they’ve now bumped the second raise back six months – to January 2011 – because of concerns raised at Monday’s city council meeting about back-to-back raises next summer.

With a few other changes, Thomas has calculated that the total package will save the city about $312,000 over two years.

Like AFSCME, IAFF is asking for a guarantee of no layoffs for the rest of the contract term, which ends June 30, 2011.

However, Thomas is worried that aldermen – who have the final say – want a one-year wage freeze or else.

“We’re trying,” Thomas said. “I feel like we made a last-ditch effort. I don’t know if they’re going to fire back or not.”

On Monday, the message was clear: Aldermen voted 6-1 to move forward with firefighter layoffs.

“The council has previously indicated to me that a proposal that includes a permanent (one-year) wage freeze component would only be acceptable,” Biernacki said.

If you go

What: Special meeting of the DeKalb City Council

When: 6 p.m. Monday

Where: DeKalb Municipal Building, 200 S. Fourth St. in DeKalb

The meeting will begin with a closed session, then will open for a resolution concerning a reduction in the AFSCME workforce.

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