Firefighters and Police Commanding Officers Union Reach Agreements on Cuts, but Council Rejects 911 Operators’ Contract

The accords provide budget savings City Council sought.

The Portland City Council today voted unanimously to approve new contracts with the Portland Firefighters Association and the Portland Police Commanding Officers Association after significant concessions.

But in an unusual move, the council rejected the contract officials had agreed to with the 911 operators who work for the city's Bureau of Emergency Communications.

Normally, council approval of previously negotiated labor contracts is a foregone conclusion.

But as WW reported earlier this week, the city's need to make significant budget cuts because of COVID-19 meant that contracts agreed to in mid-March were suddenly unaffordable.

The Portland City Council Already Agreed to Give Police and Firefighters a Raise. Now It Needs Them to Take Pay Cuts.

All three contracts were scheduled for a May 13 vote, but due to frantic last-minute conversations, all three were pulled from the agenda Wednesday.

In the intervening 24 hours, city officials reached agreements with the firefighters and police commanding officers union.

Both unions agreed to financial concessions memorialized today in amendments to the tentatively agreed-upon contracts.

The PPCOA, which represents police lieutenants, agreed to concessions that will save about $137,000 in next year's budget. The much larger firefighters union agreed to concessions worth about $4.7 million over the next two fiscal years.

"We understand these are difficult times for the city of Portland and the budget," Capt. Alan Ferschweiler, president of the Portland Firefighters Association, told the council today. "In the last couple of weeks, we have worked hard to come to an agreement that conveys that we are  committed to the citizens we serve."

Discussions will continue with the 911 operators, who last year switched their affiliation from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union to the Portland Police Association. The PPA is currently negotiating a contract for rank-and-file police officers with the city.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who previously oversaw the BOEC, expressed surprise the 911 operators were not willing to agree to a revised deal with the city. "It's just kind of astonishing to me," Fritz said in the virtual meeting.