San Jose Firefighters Turn in Their Gear

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SAN JOSE, Calif. (KCBS) — A dozen San Jose fire fighters turned in their gear for good Friday after coming off their final shift.

By the end of the weekend, 49 firefighters will have lost their jobs to city budget cuts, dashing their aspirations and exposing residents to longer response times.

“This isn’t just a job, this is a career. For many of us, it’s been a dream,” said rookie firefighter Michael Hidalgo, who said he worked five years to land a job there. Click here to listen.

The San Jose Fire Department is grappling with what’s now become a familiar combination of budget cuts and a contract stalemate.

The loss of so many firefighters means longer response times on emergency calls, with potentially deadly consequences, said union chief Randy Sekaney.

Backfilling, he said, “is not going to even begin to fill the service reduction gap that’s created by the loss of these four engines and this fire truck.”

Mayor Chuck Reed said there was still a chance to undo the cuts if the firefighters agree to concessions similar to those sought from San Jose’s other public employee unions.

“If the agreement is reached next week or next month, we could reinstate them, put them back on the job,” he said.

Reed asked the other unions for ten percent pay cuts to help deal with the budget shortfall. The firefighters did agree to some of the concessions, but Reed said another $6 million in givebacks is needed to balance the budget.

Both parties are likely to agree to binding arbitration that would begin in November.

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