Phila. firefighters protest commissioner's tranfer plan

PHILADELPHIA - November 27, 2102

"It is not a mass transfer. It is about 15 to 20% of the department," said Philadelphia Fire Commissioner Lloyd Ayers.

Philadelphia's veteran fire commissioner was jeered by some of his troops. He was on the hot seat before a city council committee feeling the anger of the rank and file members torching his controversial plan to launch a firefighter rotation policy.

The new policy could see up to 20% of them transferred from one station house to another, and the plan has triggered more tension than ever between firefighters and city hall.

The plan is to rotate nearly 300 firefighters who have worked at stations more than 8 years. It is billed as a way to help broaden their experience as they look to moving up the ranks by exposing them to various parts of the city.

Those who have reached the rank of lieutenants and higher are already moved every three years.

Ayers says this new wrinkle will do no harm.

"To think that we're going to move everybody out of every station and there is going to be this big void of knowledge in a fire station is just not true," Commissioner Ayers told the council. "It's not true, and it's not going to happen."


City council greeted Ayer's claims with skepticism, saying they thought it was a way to punish the firefighter's union for years of battle over policy and arbitration rulings on wage increases.

"Do you expect people to want to come to work in a cheerful manner when they are treated so disrespectfully by their own employer? We don't have that problem at the police department. Why is that?" asked Councilman James Kenney.

One senior commander, who is still on the job, came forward to cast dispersion on the rotation plan.

"These changes are a result of retaliation; retaliation over the lengthy, expensive court battle involving the contract over the FLSA lawsuit brought by some paramedics and firefighters," said Deputy Chief James Bonner.

After all the sound and fury, no minds were changed Tuesday.

The disgruntled rank and file will continue to seethe, and the fire commissioner will continue to stand his ground, with plans to go forward with his mandatory rotation policy.

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