HAMMOND | Hammond firefighters may receive a smaller raise than other city employees in 2013, with Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr. saying Friday he doesn't foresee a last-minute rally to save contract negotiations.
“The time to act was a long time ago,” McDermott said about a contract with Hammond Professional Firefighters Association Local 556.
The city is proposing a $250 flat raise for Hammond firefighters, while Hammond police officers are in line for a 1 percent raise in 2013 after agreeing to a new one-year contract with the city. The contract also guarantees no layoffs, McDermott said.
The city is offering a similar contract to public works employees represented by the Teamsters, McDermott said.
Paul Maldonado, president of Hammond Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 51, declined to discuss additional details of the contract.
The contract is shorter in length and gives a smaller raise than the police officers' current four-year contract that expires at the end of the year. Both police and firefighters saw an up to 4 percent raise in their current contracts.
“It's hard to forecast what the financial situation will be like in Hammond four years from now,” McDermott said of the one-year length.
Local 556 president Ed Lomeli said he doesn't know why firefighters aren't getting a full 1 percent raise.
“We have not discussed anything with the mayor,” Lomeli said. “We are hoping to sit down with the mayor before the end of the year.”
Offering a flat raise in lieu of a percentage increase to city firefighters is among recommendations made by an independent review of the department the city released in August.
Talks with Local 556 came to a halt when McDermott canceled the start of negotiations after the union sought charges within the labor organization against City Council President Michael Opinker.
The charges allege Opinker, who also works for the Hammond Fire Department, went against the union by voting for controversial changes to health insurance coverage for city employees in May.
“Why reward bad behavior? If the Teamsters and the police department were mature enough to sit down and bargain with the city, the firemen took the exact opposite course,” McDermott said.
The Hammond City Council will review the proposed salaries on Oct. 22.
Opinker said the salary ordinance isn't finalized yet.
“The only thing I can say about that — the Hammond Police Department negotiated and the Fire Department didn't negotiate yet,” Opinker, D-5th, said. “It's not finalized yet. The vote hasn't gone through yet. There's still time to work this issue out before we go for a final vote.”
Councilman Homero “Chico” Hinojosa, D-6th, contends the city is not negotiating in good faith with the firefighters.
“They are holding back negotiating,” Hinojosa said.