City Council overrides mayor’s veto for first time

    The 16-to-zero override vote passed legislation changing the fire code to classify paramedics as firefighters. The move allows the medics to stay in the same union.

    For the first time, Philadelphia City Council has overridden one of Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s vetoes.

    The 16-to-zero override vote passed legislation changing the fire code to classify paramedics as firefighters. The move allows the medics to stay in the same union.

    Councilman Jim Kenney says his bill shows support for firefighters and paramedics.

    “They go out on runs together. They are firefighters. They wear the same uniform,” says Kenney. “There is no reason why we would set up two different bargaining units and one of those bargaining units would be out of Act 111 with the possibility to be able to strike. Not that our paramedics would strike, they are too dedicated. But we wouldn’t want to give them the possibility to strike, because that is a real scary thought.”

    Act 111 is the state law that mandates binding arbitration for police and fire unions.

    Bill Gault is the head of the firefighters union. He says the vote was critical to morale in the Fire Department.

    “This is just vindictiveness on the mayor’s part,” says Gault. “This never had to be done. This shows that the citizens’ want fire protection. They don’t want us split up. The only thing that would have come out of this is that the city would have actually had to negotiate two contracts, there was actually no savings here.”

    Gault says he was afraid Mayor Nutter was trying to break the union by removing the paramedics, who make up less than 10 percent of his rank and file.

    Nutter says paramedics already have different work rules from firefighters, so having them in the same union doesn’t make sense.

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