News - September 8, 2010

Firefighters union rejects latest offer

by Sandy Brundage

It's back again (and again) to the bargaining table for firefighters with the Menlo Park Fire Protection District, which covers Atherton, East Palo Alto, and unincorporated areas, as well as Menlo Park.

The union rejected the latest offer from the district, tendered in a letter on Aug. 18, which included an additional $750 per month for health and post-employment benefits, but did not dangle a pay raise.

Peter Ohtaki, the district's board president and Menlo Park City Council candidate, said the offer was made while residents and other fire departments are enduring a recession.

"The District promises no layoffs or furloughs through next year due to prudent financial planning. We've spent a lot of time preparing an offer that is attractive to our firefighters and fair to taxpayers," he said.

The union rejected the offer by Aug. 30. The district's firefighters also filed a lawsuit in July over the issue of overtime pay for time spent picking up equipment before and after their shifts start. Last year the district decided to replace salaries with hourly wages, leading to the overtime dispute.

John Wurdinger, president of the Menlo Park division of the International Association of Firefighters union, declined to specify the reasons for the rejection. When asked if the firefighters voted to reject the offer, or whether union leaders decided alone, he replied, "The firefighters responded to the [district's] letter."

Both parties previously scheduled a negotiation meeting for Sept. 13.


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