News Release News Release The City of Palo Alto
Communications Department
250 Hamilton Ave
Palo Alto, CA 94301


PRESS RELEASE 05/21/2010
Subject :

City Disputes Comments Made by Fire Union President at Today’s Press Conference
Contact : Pamela Antil, Assistant City Manager    650-329-2533
Palo Alto, CA – On behalf of the City, Palo Alto Assistant City Manager Pam Antil responded today to International Association of Fire Fighters Local 1319 Chief Negotiator Tony Spitaleri's press conference comments about the City’s upcoming negotiations with the union and the City decision to hire a consultant to study fire department operations.  "The City is committed to its bargaining at the table as required by state labor law," Assistant City Manager Antil said.  “We are disappointed Mr. Spitaleri has misrepresented the City’s position in a public forum when we have yet to begin formal negotiations.”

City Manager James Keene said, “We are proud of the dedication and the great service the men and women of the fire department provide to the citizens of this community. Public safety is the top priority of the City Council and Administration.  Nothing the City proposes in negotiations or recommends based on study data will compromise public safety in Palo Alto.” 

The City remains focused on controlling rising pension and healthcare costs by having employees share in these costs.  Without such employee contributions, budget deficits will grow each year and require greater cuts in programs and services to the public.  This year, other employee groups’ pension and healthcare plans were restructured. In  FY 2011, the City faces a $7.3 million budget gap due to the ongoing economic downturn.  Estimates indicate that the City will have a budget deficit in the following year as well.

“While the fire union offered some economic concessions, off the record, unfortunately they do not adequately address the structural changes that are needed to help stabilize City finances in the tough economic climate we face today,” Antil stated.  “While other department expenditures have been reduced, the fire department budget continues to grow.” 

Additionally, the current fire union contract includes language referred to as “minimum staffing” that requires the same number of personnel on duty no matter the actual staffing needs by call volume, time of day, etc., which affects not only salary costs, but impacts the City’s overtime budget.  As a result, the City recently commissioned an independent study to take a look at fire department operations, staffing and resources utilization to determine if service levels could be maintained while reducing the budget for the department by deploying personnel and/or resources differently.

“The services, resources and utilization study will provide the necessary data for the City to make sound decisions related to fire department staffing and deployment based on industry standards and the call volume and data from our own dispatch center rather than averages in other studies that include cities across the nation that have little in common with Palo Alto,” Antil stated.  “Currently, we have differences in call volume from station to station.  We need to ensure that resources are deployed in a manner consistent with actual service needs.  The study will help us achieve that goal and hopefully reduce overall budget costs.”

The City will begin negotiations on May 26, 2010 with the 108-member IAFF local fire fighter union 1319.  The union’s current contract is due to expire on June 30, 2010.