OCEANSIDE — The July 8 City Council vote to postpone Fire Department budget transfers eliminated three Fire Department positions and rendered agreed-upon personnel negotiations between the city and the Firefighters Association null and void.
Councilmen Jerry Kern, Jack Feller and Rocky Chavez voted for the postponement.
Mayor Jim Wood and Coucilwoman Esther Chavez voted against the postponement of fund transfers that would have eliminated two paid holidays, uniform allowances and a voluntary 2 percent pay cut from all Fire Department salaries in order to save three positions.
“Each firefighter is giving up $3,000 to save a position and thinking of the best for the city,” Sanchez said. “What the firefighters did was dig deep into their pockets, came up with their own personal cuts. And we say we don’t like those cuts.”
The postponement closes the window on an opportunity to transfer funds before final layoff notices are given and the new fiscal year budget goes into effect.
Fire personnel receiving position layoffs notices will have an opportunity to work at lower positions, creating a domino effect of demotions in the department and a shortage of leadership.
“Eight employees received layoff notices,” Brian Kammerer, human resources director, said. “The battalion chief notice of layoff will bump down … a layer of people being demoted.”
The proposed solution addressed the Fire Department budget for one year. If the negotiations had been approved, the budget would have to be re-evaluated next year.
“Cuts need to be meaningful and ongoing,” Chavez said. “This is not an ongoing cut. It’s a one-time cut.”
Without the temporary solution the Fire Department is concerned community safety and the safety of firefighters in the field will be adversely affected.
The decision also sends a negative message to employee associations that personnel negotiations reached with the city can be nixed by the council.
“We worked very hard together,” Kammerer said. “I think it’s very important we pass this. We’re sending a message to other associations.”
“They (City Council) had an opportunity to show their support and they didn’t,” Greg de Avila, president of the Oceanside Firefighters Association, said. “The cut offsets us quite a bit. We’ll try to shake it off and go back to work.”