Memphis firefighters fight to keep their benefits

Memphis firefighters fight to keep their benefits

(WMC-TV) – Memphis firefighters are fighting for their benefits. The issue is not on the city council agenda for Tuesday, but local union leaders will be the meeting just in case reducing paid leave comes up anyway.

"It's a slap in the face to the negotiation process," said Tommy Malone, Memphis Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1784.

Union president Tommy Malone has been seething since Wednesday when city hall handed the city's unions a seven page document outlining a proposal that could reduce paid leave benefits. They are cuts that the city council request a long time ago.

"I think this is wrong what the council is doing. I think it sends a bad message to our rank and file," said Malone.

Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad is among the council members who requested the data.

Conrad says city government policies ought to better fall in line with private business.

"You can't say that city employees are underpaid if you look at all the other benefits and pensions and healthcare and things like this," said Conrad.

And yet Conrad admits that police officers and firefighters have anything but typical desk jobs.

"We need to be very careful and make sure that we have different programs for police and fire," said Conrad. "It needs to be a smart system and not a ones size fits all approach, but the system is calling for reform."

With that, Malone agrees. But he remains wary of upcoming negotiations with city hall.

"It doesn't work for us because we're a 24 hour entity," he said.

"We sit down, we negotiate, we say our part, they say their part, and then if we can't agree then the council decides," said Malone. "The city council is supposed to be neutral."

Right now, the benefit reduction is merely up for a discussion.

"It's been a long time coming," said Conrad.

Again, the issue is not on the council agenda for Tuesday, and should it stay that way, it is expected to come up in two weeks.

Copyright 2012 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.