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Bremerton firefighters agree to pay cuts, hiring delay

Bremerton firefighters unanimously voted to cut wages by 2 percent and delay hiring new employees for the rest of the year last week to help balance the city's 2009 budget.

Bremerton union members voted unanimously April 7 to wage concessions and other contractual changes in efforts to cut city spending.

"We would certainly hope this is a one-time thing," International Association of Fire Fighters Local 437 President Todd Thorsen said.

He said Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman approached the union about a month ago to discuss possible cuts. The union then mulled over the options and made their decision last week.

"Anytime you take pay cuts or agree to not hiring positions that were funded for this year, certainly those are tough decisions," Thorsen said.

City and union representatives worked together and came up with changes that save money and still maintain current levels of service.

The union and city specifically agreed to delay hiring additional personnel until 2010; postpone organizational restructuring until 2010; defer promotions; reduce salaries by 2 percent across the board; and work in conjunction with the fire chief to restrain equipment and training costs.

Thorsen said five new hires were slated for July, but they will no longer be hired as a result of the union vote.

"They're still in the contract for next year though," he said. "You never want to hire someone thinking it's only going to be for a short time period."

The cuts agreed on by the fire union will shave roughly $407,000 from the city's 2009 budget, Thorsen said. The city is looking to cut a total of $2.9 million from the budget.

"These are really hard times and so I am very pleased that the firefighters were willing to step up and find solutions that save the city money and avoid layoffs or service reductions" Bozeman said.

Thorsen said the union knows the budget woes are affecting departments citywide and no single department will make the majority of the cuts.

"It's all kinds of city employees and it affects their lives and their families," Thorsen said. "We were willing to help and thought it was appropriate."

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