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Published: Thursday, 7/24/2008

2 Michigan firefighter unions lose in court


LANSING - The Michigan Supreme Court yesterday ruled against two firefighter unions seeking to prevent layoffs in Pontiac and Detroit.

The court ruled 4-3 that an Oakland County judge was wrong to grant an injunction in 2006, stopping Pontiac's plan to lay off 28 of 117 firefighters until their union's unfair labor practice case against the city was resolved.

The Pontiac Fire Fighters Union Local 376 had argued the layoffs would affect the safety of the community and other firefighters by causing delays in response times.

Four justices disagreed, saying Pontiac said the same number of firefighters would be at fire scenes and that the city would add resources to make sure the fire department wasn't burdened with medical runs at the expense of fighting fires.

The firefighters showed no "irreparable harm," Justice Robert Young, Jr., wrote.

He was joined by Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, Maura Corrigan, and Stephen Markman.

The court also ruled 6-1 against Detroit firefighters, saying a Wayne County judge wrongly issued an injunction without resolving the issue of firefighters' safety.

The Detroit Fire Fighters Association sued in 2005 after the city announced layoff plans, including one to lay off 65 firefighters, demote 10 battalion chiefs, and reduce the number of battalions from eight to five.

The Supreme Court sent the case back to a trial judge to figure out the effect of layoffs on safety.

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