When Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis serves hot dogs to hundreds of city workers at Employee Appreciation Day Wednesday, 200 firefighters won't be there to accept the mayor's gratitude.
Members of the International Firefighters Association local 1645 will boycott the event, which will attract up to 4,500 employees and their families to Raging Waters, 12th West and 17th South, Union President Charlie Quick said.Two hundred of the union's 300 members will donate their tickets to local children's charities, including the Salt Lake Boys Club and Girls Club, and then picket the entrance to the facility, he said.
Quick called the appreciation day "ironic" in light of the city's unwillingness to show its appreciation by honoring previous contracts and "participating in bad-faith bargaining" with the firefighters' union.
DePaulis did not give raises to the city's three unions this year, citing budget constraints. The firefighters' union has said it will sue the city on behalf of 11 apprentice members, claiming the city is not honoring an apprenticeship agreement guaranteeing the 11 up to $410 monthly raises.
DePaulis expressed disappointment over the union's decision to boycott the event.
"We've been doing Employee Appreciation Day now for years and it's a very special day," he said. "I was just surprised, it's never been politicized in any way before."
DePaulis said poor economic conditions forced him to deny pay raises and manpower increases to all city unions, a decision that has brought the wrath of many discontented employees upon the mayor's office.
"But I'll bear the burden in the name of taxpayers . . . and I'll take whatever they try and throw at me," he said.
The appreciation day boycott is one of several fire department-related squabbles pitting firefighters against the mayor's office. Wage negotiations earlier this year were marked by firefighter discontent over lack of pay increases.
Currently, union attorneys are poised to file suit against the city in the apprentice-agreement dispute. And other fire department personnel are calling for a Salt Lake Civil Service Commission investigation of unfair hiring and promotional practices by department chiefs.
Quick said fire department employees are not chronic malcontents and downplayed the possibility the department may suffer from a poor public image.
"It's really of little consequence who it angers at this point. The fire-fighters are desperate and we're doing everything we can to bring it to the mayor's attention," he said.
The union, although seeking pay raises in a possible lawsuit for it's apprentice employees, is not concentrating solely on bringing wage issues to DePaulis' attention, Quick said. They also would like to see De-Paulis sign a non-fiscal work agreement with the union.
The work agreement addresses working conditions and even includes a no-strike clause that would have no impact on the city budget, Quick said, urging that DePaulis sign the agreement.
But DePaulis said working-condition issues are the responsibility of fire department management.
"We take the position that managing the system needs to be in the department, the chiefs need to be in power," DePaulis said.