The jobs of 10 Bristol, VA Local 2499 members are off the chopping block, thanks to the local’s efforts to warn city leaders of the serious threat the staffing cuts would pose to public safety.
“This victory shows what our union can accomplish when we stand together and fight to protect our members,” said 4th District Vice President Andrew Pantelis. “The IAFF and Bristol Local 2499 worked in partnership to alert the community and elected officials about the dangers of reducing staffing. As a result of our combined efforts, the Council made the right decision to keep the City and our members safe.”
As the Bristol City Council began debating the Fiscal 2017-18 budget, it proposed cuts to the fire department that it said were necessary to avoid a budget shortfall. In several heated debates, Council members discussed possible layoffs, station closures, work schedule changes and a potential conversion from all career to a combination career/volunteer force. The final proposal called for closing one of the City’s three fire stations and laying off 10 fire fighters, a 25 percent reduction in fire department staffing.
The IAFF assisted in developing a strategy to stop the cuts before they were made final. In addition, the International completed a GIS analysis and a Municipal Financial Analysis to provide data showing the negative impact these deep cuts would have on public safety in Bristol.
District Vice President Pantelis and Local 2499 President MIke Wise presented the data in a two-hour presentation before the City Council, effectively demonstrating that response times would dramatically increase and put fire fighters’ safety at risk.
The strategy worked. Bristol Mayor Bill Hartley agreed to modify the proposed budget so that it did not include cuts to fire department staffing or resources. Taking it a step further, the City will also fill three vacant positions.