Several dozen people who attended a quickly organized rally in Corner Brook Thursday called on the mayor to step down because he eliminated four jobs immediately after signing a new contract for firefighters.
Mayor Neville Greeley insists the decision to eliminate four jobs — announced as soon as the city signed a three-year deal with the firefighters' union — was necessary to pay for a pay increase of 16 per cent.
But organizer Jason Earle, who said he had no connection to the firefighters, said residents should not tolerate what he called "a disgrace," and a council that makes decisions that could put public safety at risk.
"It’s our money," he told CBC News. "It's the taxpayers' dollars that are at work here and to us, firefighters are an essential service."
About 60 people attended Thursday afternoon's rally, held just a day after council announced the cuts. Greeley maintains the decision will not pose a risk to safety.
"Hey ho, Greeley's gotta go," demonstrators chanted.
Jim Wells, a retired worker from the city's newsprint mill, said he wants Greeley to resign.
"I'm here because I don't think those people are getting a fair shake," he said.
Participant Michelle Payne-Wells said residents are furious with council.
"To sign a contract and then go and do something as underhanded as this, we can't let our council do it," she said.
"What does it say for the rest of the employers? If it was OCI or anybody else, they would be shut down tomorrow."
Greeley said the union was told job cuts would be necessary to cover the negotiated raise. He said the city could only afford the amount covered in the first tentative agreement, which union members rejected.
NDP MHA Dale Kirby said cutting jobs just minutes after signing a new collective agreement was not a smart move.
"It's an unorthodox and problematic [thing to do]. I don't think it's the way that we should be doing labour relations in this province."
A petition has been started against the cuts at the fire department.