Let’s face it.
If Boston’s firefighters were asking for a 19% raise and the economy was flying and unemployment was low and business expansion was robust, would anyone care?
But the economy is retrograde.
It is weak and ineffectual when compared to three years ago.
In fact, the national economy and the local economy are barely coming back from the near death experience at the end of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
That is exactly why there is so much negative energy everywhere regarding the arbitration award given to the city’s firefighters recently.
We could accept a 5% raise.
We could accept a 7% raise.
We might even accept a 9% raise.
But a 19% raise when the economic ship of state is taking on water is an outrage.
It is an award without an ounce of understanding for the pain and suffering being caused by a job marketplace that is non-existent, and by a local economy that is sputtering.
In fact, it is an unsustainable raise being awarded to public employees who are already among the highest paid and pensioned employees in the state.
Collective bargaining should be just that – the city which has had to cut its expenses dramatically, which has placed a hiring freeze on new employees, and which is seeking to cut benefits to the point where the budget can be balanced without making concession on public safety.
All of this is out the window with the firefighters’ arbitration award.
Even the firefighters’ decision to put off a 2.5% raise comes to mean absolutely nothing since the city can’t afford the 2.5% raise in the first place.
The time has come to face the harsh reality of the brave new world w are living in.
Raises can’t be given when the economy is sinking.
Raises can be arbitrated but they need to be within the scope of the harsh new reality.
Cities that spend much more than is coming in doom themselves to inevitable bankruptcy.
If the firefighters get their arbitrated raise, it is the beginning of the end for Boston.
And it is also the beginning of the end for every Boston City Councillor who voted for it.