The leader of the local firefighters union says Salt Lake Mayor Palmer DePaulis is playing politics with the lives of city residents.

"He's being foolish regarding employee problems," said Charlie Quick, local president of the International Association of Firefighters. "He has not adhered to negotiation practices. He's playing politics with the lives of citizens and using the City Council as a backdrop."The city's three unions are involved in the collective bargaining process before the City Council adopts a budget June 9, and the negotiating sessions have been sparked with the fireworks of union complaints. DePaulis calls his proposed $80.3 million general fund budget the city's tightest ever. The proposal doesn't include any raises for city employees, and cuts approximately 3 percent from every department.

Police Association officials have been granted picket permits, and say they plan to demonstrate their displeasure with DePaulis in 11 locations when his colleagues come to town for the U.S. Conference of Mayors in June.

"We have no manpower out there on the street. The administration doesn't realize the problems we might be facing this summer," said Eldon Tanner, Police Association president. He said the authorized staffing level for the department is 320, but there are only 299 officers on the street. Another 11 officers will probably retire before next March.

The city could have saved money by not hiring a negotiator, because he wasn't given the authority to negotiate, Tanner said.

Firefighters last year staged a weeklong picket outside City Hall after failing to reach an agreement with the city. Quick said he had

reached agreements with the city both last year and this year, until they were withdrawn by the mayor.

Quick said the mayor Wednesday withdrew a proposal that would cut a firefighter's work week from 56 hours to 53 hours. That proposal, in keeping with the Fair Labor Standards Act, would save the city $40,000 in firefighters' overtime pay.

Quick also said city officials are circumventing the bargaining process by using the press. City officials have made the same charges about the unions.

"We were told in the press that there would be no merit increases, prior to ever being told that around the bargaining table," Quick said.

Quick said he had planned to pitch the proposal for a reduced work week to union membership, and was optimistic such an agreement would be ratified.

In addition, the city is ignoring 60 agreements signed over the past six years with newly hired firefighters, which guaranteed merit raises based on a training schedule.