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Firefighters Approve; Four Unions Reject Mayor's Call for Pay Freeze

Columbus firefighters Monday agreed to give up their pay raises this year to help the city balance its budget - the only union representing city employees to make that promise so far. In return, Mayor Coleman promises that no firefighters will be laid off.

Mayor Coleman had asked five unions representing some 7,000 city employees to agree to a pay freeze in 2009. He said that collectively the freeze would save the city $10 million. But as the mayor stepped to the podium at city hall Monday it was clear that only one of the five unions had accepted his proposal.

"I'm saddened and disappointed that the other city unions rejected this reasonable request," Coleman said. "Each union had a different reason for rejecting it; one even filed a complaint against me for simply asking the question. The firefighters have led by example."

Mayor Coleman praised the firefighters throughout the news conference. But he gently chided the other unions for not doing their part during a time of economic crisis.

"I was looking for sacrifice. I was looking for assumption of responsibility; what everybody else is doing. Our whole country is undergoing a new era of responsibility. This is a time where I want to see every citizen of our city to step up and take new responsibility, even our city employees," Coleman said.

Coleman repeated his pledge not to lay off any firefighters now that they've approved the pay freeze. Firefighters union president Jack Reall:

"Our goal internally was to make sure that we maintain our service levels throughout the year; primarily because that's what protects us from the dangers of fire ," Reall said. "We work in a crew concept and we make sure that we have partners that watch over our back and make sure that we go home in the morning and that's the best protection that we have and we need to make sure that those service levels stay the same."

There are about 1,500 firefighters represented by the local firefighters union.