NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - New Orleans police union leaders are now throwing their support behind New Orleans firefighters in their fight for better job conditions, especially as both departments have been working without a contract for years.
Ahead of a big Mardi Gras weekend of celebrations and parades, New Orleans firefighters still stand strong in their resolve for city leaders to negotiate a contract.
While fire chief Tim McConnell claimed firefighters staged a sickout over the weekend, union leader Aaron Mischler continues to deny that. In fact, he says they’re doubling down in telling firefighters to show up.
“We don’t want them to stage a sick out we reiterated that it doesn’t only hurt the citizens we’re sworn to protect, it puts firefighters in danger when we don’t have the proper numbers. That’s what this whole campaign is about, we don’t have the proper number of firefighters to be safe for ourselves or the citizens and we need more,” Mischler said.
Mischler says they’re disappointed city leaders haven’t at least held good faith negotiations, as they’ve been working without a city contract since 2012.
“I do care about public safety and want to get this resolved as soon as possible, I don’t know how waiting until after Mardi Gras is a win-win,” Mischler said.
Like New Orleans fire, the New Orleans police union is not under contract with the city. Union reps believe without those agreements, it puts citizens public safety at greater risk.
“You can negotiate for manpower, when the manpower falls between a certain level the city would promise to hire additional officers or firefighters... we’re just trying to make sure the police officers are treated fairly and their working conditions are comparable to other areas,” attorney for the Police Association of New Orleans, Eric Hessler, said.
Hessler says they support the firefighters in their dispute. He says that’s a fight they had to put down years ago. They still want a city contract, but don’t believe the administration feels the same.
“Back in ‘79 when they had the police strike was the last time city engaged in collective bargaining with union… we haven’t pushed for it lately because the administration has been dead set against it,” Hessler said.
While Mischler says they too are growing frustrated with the lack of response by city leaders, he promises citizens they’ll show up.
“The citizens can always count on the firefighters, we’re never going to let them down regardless of our numbers,” Mischler said.
City leaders again did not respond to our request about scheduling possible negotiations.
According to Mischler, they don’t intend to negotiate until after Mardi Gras.