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Anti-safety? Old union trope withers

The old chest-thumping power plays used by public employee unions for years are not resonating with voters like they used to. We saw that with the passage of Manchester's spending cap and the election and reelection of mayors Frank Guinta and Ted Gatsas. Still, the union brass know no other way to behave, so they keep pounding their chests as if the ancient tribal call will be enough to send the reformers with the green eye shades back to their offices to cower in fear.

Upon hearing that Manchester would be subject to a spending cap of about 1.6 percent next year, the city firefighters union and its pawns on the Board of Aldermen began their ritual. They pointed to Mayor Ted Gatsas and said that if he doesn't spend more money on the fire department, then he's a foe of public safety.

It is a matter of simple math, they brayed.

More firefighters equal a safer city; fewer firefighters equal a less safe city. Therefore, the city must override the spending cap to hire more firefighters next year. If only the mayor were not around to point out that the union itself opposed a plan just months ago to save firefighter jobs.

The mayor spent the first half of 2011 explaining to the firefighters union the reality of city finances.

They could either accept a reasonable increase in their health insurance contributions and co-pays (current benefits are far more generous than most private-sector employees receive) or the city would have to lay off up to 15 firefighters. The union chose layoffs.

What is more, the union was offered a second chance to avoid layoffs, and it rejected that, too.

Alderman Jim Roy, a former firefighter, proposed eliminating district fire chief positions and using that money to keep more rank-and-file firefighters on the job. The union opposed it.

Judging the union by its own formula - fewer firefighters equal a less safe city - then the union is anti-public safety.

The public can see this hypocrisy perfectly clearly. Given that and the fact that so many taxpayers have had to accept pay and benefit cuts in the past few years (if they're still employed), this old ploy is reaching the end of its effectiveness.

The union brass would be wise to retire it and come up with a realistic argument defending their opposition to benefit changes, which anyone can see is the real issue.

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