Saturday, 2:15 PM
Hundreds protest public safety layoffs in New Bedford
(Vincent DeWitt for The Boston Globe)
By Eric Moskowitz, Globe Staff
Hundreds of firefighters from across the state gathered in front of New Bedford City Hall today to hear union leaders denounce the layoffs of 38 police officers and 38 firefighters.
Faced with a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, Mayor Scott W. Lang asked city employee unions to accept a 10 percent pay cut or suffer layoffs. The unions refused. Now Lang is letting go a total of 200 workers, including police and firefighters.
Union officials said the layoffs of public safety personnel in New Bedford were the first of a wave that will spread across the state as local governments cope with a decline in tax revenue due to the bleak economy.
“Although we have no rail in this city, the train has left the city,” and it will bring layoffs in other communities, said Leonard F. Baillargeon, head of the city police union.
Union officials said they did not entirely blame Lang, who joined them at the rally in calling for Washington and Beacon Hill to send money to cities and towns to protect needed jobs.
Lang expressed appreciation for the work that firefighters and police do and said the layoffs could affect the city’s economic future.
“I can’t bring jobs to New Bedford and grow this city if there’s any question” about public safety, said Lang.
James Allen, head of the city firefighters’ union, said the union would try to support those who have lost their jobs.
“The situation has ripped us apart financially, but we’re not going to let it rip us apart as a union,” he said.