A tense contract dispute between the city of Toledo and its main firefighters union appeared headed for resolution Friday, as representatives on both sides announced they had reached a tentative deal.
Mayor Mike Bell, surrounded by union and city officials, heralded the agreement as "a big movement" in the contract negotiations, which for the last two days have taken place before an independent fact finder. He said the deal shows respect for the work of firefighters, and also the city's strained financial reality.
The deal "shows our firefighters that we do care about them but also is extremely respect[ful] of where we're at in the community at this time in trying to turn our city around," he said. "I want to thank the firefighters for stepping up and understanding where we're at. By no means could we ever pay you what you're worth for what you do, and what you're prepared to do with your lives."
Officials would not reveal details of the deal -- which must be approved by union members -- but Local 92 Vice President Dan Desmond described it as "concessionary in nature."
He said he will urge his members to support the agreement when it's presented to the union early next week. He said vote results should be in by Wednesday.
"I'm supporting it, and I will ask my members to support it," Mr. Desmond said. "In the end, the [bargaining] process worked, and that's a good thing."
The agreement follows a sometimes-rocky negotiating course, marked by firefighter demonstrations and a dispute by Local 92 over the length and transparency of the fact-finder hearing. In the end, the union leadership's request to extend the hearing was accepted. However, rank-and-file members continued to gather this week outside the downtown Environmental Services Building where the talks took place, criticizing the Bell administration's demand for concessions.
The mayor, and several councilmen who stood with him during the announcement Friday, appeared eager to appease such tensions, each affirming their respect for firefighters and thanking them for their service. Mayor Bell and union leaders down-played any disagreements.
"Occasionally I think as families, you battle, but at the end of the day we still realize that we're still in the same family," the mayor said.
Citing police and firefighter';,, budgets, city officials also made a plea to voters to OK renewal of a 0.75 percent portion of the city income tax.