NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Among the men and women who have chosen not to work excessive overtime at the New Orleans Fire Department, union president Aaron Mischler says morale is at an all-time low.
“We’re being vilified for shining a light on a critical situation,” said Mischler.
That’s why these words from the city’s mayor, about utilizing other departments to fill in for absent firefighters during carnival strikes him to his core.
“So it seems to be a win-win, no overtime based on their choice and we’ve been able to meet the needs of the city based on special events and the requirements associated so we’re in a good place,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell.
“I don't know on what planet taking away firefighters hard-earned vacations and making light of the fact that the city is less equipped for it is not enough firefighters,” said Mischler.
While Mischler doesn’t believe firefighters will reach the point to strike, he says he’s had no indication the city wants to come to an agreement.
“Chief McConnell he said he spoke to the mayor and she doesn’t have time this week… if you’re really interested in public safety, this would be paramount to get to the table and get this taken care of,” said Mischler.
NOFD Fire Chief Tim McConnell says if the entire department goes on strike, they’d be forced to call in the National Guard to stand in and respond.
St. Bernard Fire Department Chief Thomas Stone says that’s not unheard of, his department did so when he was a firefighter in the 1970′s.
“It was a mess, it lasted for eight days and it’s something I never want to go through again,” said Stone.
He says at the end of it, the department came to a collective bargaining agreement, and work went back to normal. But the New Orleans Fire Department may be going without additional help from firefighters in neighboring districts in light of the dispute.
Stone explained how there is a mutual aid agreement between New Orleans metro districts. However, he says their policy is not to respond to a jurisdiction while there is a union dispute, a major emergency withstanding.
“There are no jurisdictional lines when it comes to protecting the citizens of the metro New Orleans area,” said Stone. Mischler only wishes city leaders would back up their words if public safety really is a priority.
“I want to get this hashed out and done the citizens deserve it my firefighters deserve it,” said Mischler.
Mischler says he's even made calls to the governor's office to see if they can help facilitate negotiations with city leaders.
I reached out to the mayor’s office regarding her intentions for negotiations, we were told no comment.