Unionized firefighters in Corner Brook say they were blindsided by job cuts announced immediately after a new three-year contract was signed.

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Bob Joseph calls the job cuts 'just totally underhanded and low.' CBC

The ink was still drying on the paperwork when the City of Corner Brook told the union that four of the 42 jobs at the fire department would be eliminated.

"We barely had the caps on our pens, and the city handed us a letter," said Peter Daniels of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

"This is a betrayal of the collective bargaining process, completely."

Firefighters reacted angrily to the news.

"It's just totally underhanded and low. You can't get any lower than that," said veteran fireman Bob Joseph.

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Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley says the city had to eliminate jobs to balance its books. (CBC)

But Corner Brook Mayor Neville Greeley said the move was necessary because firefighters had rejected an earlier tentative agreement. The union later negotiated a package that will provide wage increases worth 16 per cent over three years.

"We had gone to the limit with the tentative agreement, and in order to go beyond that, adjustments to the workforce were necessary," Greeley told CBC News.

Daniels said public safety will be compromised by the cuts, although Greeley flatly rejected the claim.

"There's no issue, as far as the city is concerned, with safety," the mayor said.

"I can understand the fire department wanting to try to play that card, but this is not an issue where the city is doing anything to affect the response to the individual who requires the services of the fire department."