Editorial: Firefighters can join others in Elgin who have sacrificed - or insist on pay raise

  • Firefighters work the scene after a house on Elma Avenue in Elgin exploded in 2010.

    Firefighters work the scene after a house on Elma Avenue in Elgin exploded in 2010. John Starks | Staff Photographer, 2010

 
Updated 2/24/2021 9:17 AM

Last May we wrote words of support for the City of Elgin, which had initiated 10-percent pay cuts for nonunion city workers at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city has a long track record of prudent financial planning, and those in charge suspected the pandemic would have a profound effect on the city's revenue streams.

 

It truly has.

We found it refreshing that city fathers took a broader view on this, taking into account the struggles of its residents.

It was a public relations win.

Sometimes, municipal leaders view their revenue -- much of it coming from property owners and business owners -- as a never-ending stream. By conceding that the city could not simply find other ways to grow revenue during a time when its residents were hurting in so many ways, the city echoed what has gone on in the private sector for the past year of this pandemic. Companies have had to tighten their belts. It's a good bet that you or someone you know either took a pay cut, lost hours or even lost a job.

In Elgin, those nonunion job pay cuts lasted throughout 2020. For supervisors, there will be no raises this year, either.

Unions were exempted from the belt-tightening.

Collective bargaining units such as the firefighters were exempt from other furloughs, pay cuts and layoffs city workers have endured.

However, unionized public works employees have agreed to forgo pay increases this year -- as have unionized clerical workers.

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But the union that includes fire department personnel has balked at a proposal to forgo 2.5% pay increases this year and extend their contract a year.

The police union, which has been without a contract for a year now, is keeping an eye on the fire union's response.

The issue comes to a head tonight at the City Council meeting.

In recent weeks, scare tactics have been employed, suggesting the city is shutting down or at least crippling the effectiveness of Station 6 -- the most central of its seven stations.

That is nonsense.

Teams at the various stations work in concert with one another. They all back each other up.

The fire union has an opportunity to win some hearts and minds by acceding to a one-year delay in raises, as so many have -- both in the private sector and at city hall.

It's a matter of fairness.

The Elgin Fire Department is a public service that's in partnership with the city and its residents for the long haul.

At a time when people in all walks are making short-term sacrifices for long-term benefit, this should be a no-brainer for the fire union.

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