Birmingham firemen continue their opposition of cuts

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham firefighters continue to fight the city's proposed 2011 budget.  Union leaders say it could be detrimental to the department and could also cause many firefighters to leave the city's force.

If Mayor William Bell's proposed budget passes, union leaders fear Birmingham's personnel will leave.  "I do think you'll see an exodus of firefighters from Birmingham going to other municipalities that actually pay their firefighters what they're worth," said Don Baker, who's with Firefighters 117 Union.

In the budget, the fire department's overtime would be cut by $12 million.  In reality, though, firefighters say they don't get time and a half overtime, its just listed that way on their paycheck because they don't work a normal 40-hour work week.  "There is no overtime on a firefighters paycheck," Baker said.  "There is no time and a half money on a firefighters paycheck, none."

The overtime cuts, plus a 10% cut across the board would mean a drastic, nearly 30% slash for firefighters.  Mayor Bell says he's been told there are legal issues with the matter, but Bell wouldn't elaborate any further.  "Its not going to make a lot of people happy," Bell said.  "But the law is the law."

The council president, Roderick Roya,l says he and other councilors are waiting to hear more from the mayor.  "I think that their concern is legitimate," Royal said.  "But I'm not really sure I agree with what has been said."  Even so, the Local 117 Firefighters Union says they fear for the livelihoods of the entire department.  "Here's thank you for running into burning buildings, were gonna cut you about 30 percent," Baker said.

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