The best hope for averting the layoffs of 252 Baltimore firefighters next month now appears to lie in talks next week aimed at ending a lawsuit over a canceled pay raise for the firefighters.
If the talks succeed, money set aside to pay the raises would be diverted to preserve the threatened Fire Department jobs, at least for this year.
Clinton R. Coleman Jr., a spokesman for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, confirmed today that preliminary talks yesterday with representatives of the firefighters and fire officers unions about ending the legal fight were "very positive."
He said the mayor has agreed to sit down Tuesday or Wednesday with the unions and their attorneys for further talks.
The two unions sued the city to restore pay raises they had won in a binding arbitration decision, but which Schmoke canceled last spring.
The unions won the suit, but the city has appealed. And anticipating the city might lose the appeal, the administration set aside $3 million to pay the raises.
Now the unions have expressed some willingness to give up the suit, and the raises, if the $3 million earmarked for raises could instead be used to save the 252 jobs Schmoke has proposed to eliminate Dec. 6 in response to cuts in state aid.