Waukegan Mayor Sam Cunningham accused the Waukegan firefighters union of fearmongering in its push to increase contractually mandated staffing levels.
The city and Waukegan International Association of Firefighters Local 473 are in the midst of negotiating a replacement to a three-year contract that expired in April 2018.
Part of the negotiations are over whether two of the department’s five stations should always have five people assigned there instead of at least three. The department’s Belvidere Road headquarters is manned by nine, while the other two outlying stations each have five.
The union's advocacy for higher staffing levels is backed by an analysis of three years' worth of data commissioned by the union, which found the lower staffing levels led to higher response times and higher demands on firefighters, union president Mark Kolar said.
The increases might amount to saving a few seconds, but that time is crucial in responding to an emergency, Kolar said.