LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC-TV) – Lake Charles firefighters have rejected a labor contract offered by the City of Lake Charles.
The proposal was the City's final offer. The city council voted to give the mayor the authority to enforce, or implement, the benefits set forth in the offer. This means fire fighters will now work without a contract for up to a year, starting September 1st.
The rejection came Thursday evening during a meeting of the Lake Charles Fire Fighters Association. The City's offer was discussed at length but no motion was made by any members to bring the matter to a vote.
This comes after two months of negotiations between fire fighters and city officials.
While both sides agreed on most issues, including foregoing a pay increase for firefighters, the area the two sides could not agree on was the City's proposal to change the fire fighter's vacation policy. Not only did they disagree on how to handle unexcused sick days and the reshuffling of vacation days, fire fighters were against the City's plan to do away with counting their vacation days as part of their overtime.
The City said their plan saves money during hard economic times.
"A lot of areas are laying off people and that's the last thing we want to do," said Lake Charles City Administrator John Cardone. "Our goal is to try and balance our budget until the economy gets right and then we can start looking at pay for our employees."
Fire fighters said the City's plan does away with some of their benefits without a pay increase.
"We were willing to put all monetary issues aside during this round of negotiations as long as the current pay and benefits we have would remain unchanged. Obviously, the City has decided on a different approach to address the matter," said the Fire Fighters Local 561 in a statement to 7 News. "Our union will be working without a contract until the City of Lake Charles is ready to resume negotiations that are fair and in good faith. Until then, our members will continue to serve the citizens as we always have."