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Judge upholds fire union agreement


Baltimore Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Ferrall Friedman issued an injunction yesterday blocking the city from forcing firefighters and fire officers to forfeit five days' pay as part of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's budget-cutting plan.

The judge based her injunction on an earlier agreement between the city and the firefighters' union.

Faced with the threat of 252 layoffs, the union agreed last Nov. 29 to give up a 6 percent pay increase it won through binding arbitration last year.

In exchange, the city agreed to shift $3 million it had set aside to pay for the pay increase into the Fire Department budget, thereby avoiding the layoffs.

As part of his budget-cutting efforts, Mayor Schmoke had decided to close the city's schools for one week in February, but when that proved too controversial, he instead proposed forcing city employees to for feit their pay from five holidays.

In response, the firefighters' union petitioned the court to enforce its order. The proposal violated the November agreement, the union argued, and because firefighters do not received paid holidays, it would actually be an across-the-board pay cut.

"In our minds we had struck a deal in light of the fiscal problems that were going on," said Jeffrey A. DeLisle, president of the Baltimore Fire Fighters Union. "And so we're going to make them live up to their end of the deal."

Clint Coleman, a spokesman for the mayor, said Mr. Schmoke will not press for an appeal of the ruling and does not think it will set a precedent for other city employee unions because it was based on a court order specifically involving the settlement with the firefighters' union.

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