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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary | The Regional

Firefighters, Paramedics Picket Over Delayed Talks

September 27, 2000

ORANGE COUNTY — About 200 firefighters, paramedics and fire captains picketed outside fire stations throughout Orange County on Tuesday, angered by stalled contract negotiations with the Orange County Fire Authority.

"We're 82 days without a contract," said John Latta, vice president of Orange County Firefighters Union 3631. "It's frustrating. With the cost of living in Orange County skyrocketing, it's difficult to understand why they are being so stubborn on this."

The firefighters' two-year contract expired July 1. Workers say they want 10% more than the fire authority is offering. But fire authority officials would not disclose the terms of the contract offer.

It is the fire authority's position "not to negotiate in the media," Pat Walker, deputy fire chief, said in a prepared statement. "Fire management continues to feel optimistic that both sides will be able to come to a mutually agreeable contract in the very near future."

The fire authority serves about 1 million residents in 20 Orange County cities and has 720 workers.

The protesters are scheduled to rally outside fire stations this morning and Thursday at dawn. They also are to congregate at 5 p.m. Thursday at Irvine City Hall, where the fire authority's governing board holds its monthly meeting.

The next negotiating session is scheduled for Friday.

In February 1998, after working two years with no signed agreement, firefighters settled on a 2 1/2-year contract. Firefighters contend that when they signed the contract, they were promised that their salaries would be brought to within range of the county's three highest-paid fire departments by January 2000.

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