Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ten Minneapolis firefighters could soon be looking for work.
Due to city budget cuts, they’re expected to receive layoff notices on Monday.
“We were woken by a phone call saying, ‘Hey guess what? You don’t have a job today,’” said Firefighter Aaron Banks.
The elimination of these positions would leave Minneapolis with 388 firefighters.
“We came together in the same training class and we all went through this experience together,” said Firefighter Justin Johnson.
For three years, Johnson and the men standing next to him Tuesday afternoon have been Minneapolis firefighters. Johnson has even been recognized for his work. Last winter he used an AED on a high school referee who had a heart attack at a hockey game. He saved the man’s life, but Tuesday morning he learned he may not have a job.
“We got a call from Chief (Alex) Jackson this morning. The city has been threatening us with these layoffs since we showed up in January ’08,” said Johnson. “Who wants to hear they are going to lose their job? A lot of us have families at home and we are trying to figure out what we are going to do now,” said Banks, who has three children.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said the city was hoping to avoid public safety cuts. But Rybak said when the state cut back on local government aid it forced the city to make a tough decision.
“I talked with a number of these guys and told them how much we want them back and if we have retirements that could happen. Public safety is very important, but every part of this city has to make due during a very tough time,” said Rybak.
Rybak said he is asking the city council for contingency money to soften the blow. But Mark Lakosky, president of the Minneapolis Firefighters union, said the city has already taken too much from the fire department over the years. He said the department has lost dozens of positions and he worries in some emergencies, the department could be out-manned and out-matched.
“It’s coming and I don’t want to be out front talking about how that rig didn’t get here for 10 minutes so I couldn’t get up to that fire and pull that family out of that fire because no one was there yet,” said Lakosky.
In addition to the 10 firefighters that will be laid off, three others will be put on mandatory retirement.
Of the 10 firefighters laid-off, they will receive their official notification on Monday and will then be placed in a job bank to see if there is another position for them in the city.
If there isn’t, they will be laid off Sept. 14th, but could be called back if there are retirements.