Council President Scott Peters said he would be in favor of giving firefighters a pay raise for the coming year in spite of the hard-line tack of Mayor Jerry Sanders, who declared that he is at impasse with the union after refusing to hike their salaries.

In addition, Sanders said he has “heard rumors” that City Council members will pursue a raise for City Firefighters Local 145 at Monday’s council meeting.

Peters’ spokeswoman Pam Hardy would not confirm or deny the possibility, saying only that the council president was speaking only for himself and that state law keeps the council’s discussions over labor negotiations confidential.

Peters himself said today that he disagreed with the mayor. “I just don’t get why it’s the politically popular thing to tell firefighters ‘we’re tough, you’re not getting anything,’” he said.

The council president said firefighters should receive an increase have agreed in recent years to freeze their wages and to pay more for their retirement benefits in order to help the city. “They’ve cooperated with us every single year,” he said.

The final decision rests with the council, Peters said.

Sanders said he would not entertain the union’s plea for a five-year contract that would bring San Diego firefighter pay in line with the average agency. The mayor said the market for police officers was incredibly difficult, and that a raise was necessary in order to stem the flight of cops, who are leaving at a clip of about 14 per month. The police union agreed to a 9-percent pay hike in a tentative one-year contract that the council will consider ratifying Monday.

The mayor said the recruitment and retention problem in the Police Department didn’t carry over to any other employee groups at the city.

Frank De Clercq, the vice president for Local 145, said the union was seeking a 6-percent raise for all firefighters positions, and an extra 2-percent hike for lower-level employees. He alleged the city was also in breach of its current contract because it had not performed a study on benefits.

Still, De Clercq said he was “optimistic” that council members would chart a course separate from the mayor. He said his union had met with some council members who were sympathetic, but would not identify who he thought would support an increase.

The union also requested a delay in next week’s meeting, saying that the full council should be in attendance at the hearing (Councilmen Jim Madaffer and Kevin Faulconer are scheduled to be out of town next week, Peters said).

But the delay might not happen. Sanders said the charter requires labor negotiations and related legislation to be wrapped up by next week.

Peters said he requested the City Attorney’s Office to author a legal opinion on whether the hearing can be delayed. Aguirre said he would have it Friday.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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