Baltimore fire officials are concerned that an effort to encourage early retirements to save payroll costs may backfire as potential retirees wait and see what inducements the city will offer.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, who has proposed saving $220,000 from the fire department's fiscal 1992 budget by eliminating 18 captain positions and replacing them with lieutenant positions, had hoped that enough fire department personnel would retire this year that there would be no need to actually demote people.
But retirement applications slowed after the leaders of three unions representing city firefighters, fire officers and police officers last month offered the city a proposal under which some of their members would receive pension inducements for early retirement, fire officials said.
"Once a rumor starts like that in the department, we see an almost complete cessation of applications for retirement," said Fire Chief Peter J. O'Conner.
The plan would benefit the city by allowing the city to pare senior emergency workers from the payroll and replace them with lower-paid entry-level workers, according to Jeffrey A. DeLisle, president of Baltimore Fire Fighters Union Local 734.
Although Mr. DeLisle said the union plan would appeal to a large number of police and fire employees, he declined to elaborate.
"Naturally, it makes sense for people who are considering retirement to hold up a bit to see what will take place," Mr. DeLisle said.
"It is a significant proposal with benefits for all parties," he said.