Brothers and Sisters,
As you are all aware, the department has decided to move forward the Civilian Transport Program. For the last several months, members of the Executive Board have approached the Fire Department Administration to attempt to gain insight on the program. Each time, the administration advised that they would meet with the Local to provide a better understanding of the program, however, these meetings provided more questions than answers and more skepticism than encouragement.
Several weeks ago, the administration made the unilateral decision to take the firefighting equipment off of the Jump Over units. The effect of this change was a reduction in fire staffing each time these units were placed in service. Prior to the change, members of Local 1365 could still respond to all calls for service, structure fires included, while on the Jump Over units. By taking the equipment off, Chief Williams has reduced the amount of fire fighters that were available to respond to fires. A grievance was filed by President Glass, on behalf of Local 1365, to address the staffing changes. In response, Fire Chief Williams informed President Glass that it was not the intent of the program to utilize FOB personnel on Jump Over units when they were not being staffed by PMO’s. However, there has been no directive from the administration that bargaining unit members will not be staffing the units. In fact, many of you have been told by your respective EMS-1 Chiefs that we are still responsible for staffing these units.
On Thursday February 7th, 5 members of your Local 1365 Executive Board (President Glass, VP Bernoska, Treasurer Zabin, Secretary Sisko and Business Agent Benitez) attended the quarterly scheduled Labor/Management meeting. Management representatives included Fire Chief Williams, Deputy Chief Davis and Kevin Preston. The meeting lasted for just over an hour with only 3 items being addressed. The topics of discussion included the PMO program, bunker gear, and a small conversation about hiring new dual certified firefighters to fill current and future openings due to retirements. The following is a detailed review of the discussed topics.
We began the labor/management meeting with questions to Fire Chief Williams specific to the PMO program. Our initial questions were related to the subject mentioned above seeking a clarification to whether or not members of Local 1365 would be required to staff jump over units that no longer carried firefighting equipment. Chief Williams stated that is their belief that the Jump Overs will no longer be needed, and that only in “extreme cases” will our members be required to staff them. The Executive Boards position on this is that if our members are expected to reduce Engine staffing in order to put a Jump Over in service then the Jump Over needs to be equipped with firefighting equipment.
The Local then asked the departments position on using bargaining unit members to meet the staffing requirements of the civilian units. Once again, Fire Chief Williams reiterated that it was not the intent of the PMO program to utilize any personnel other than those civilians hired to work on the designated medic units. In fact, the chief further stated that PMO’s would be forced to work mandatory overtime prior to our members being considered for the medic units. Upon hearing this stance, a discussion ensued about Local 1365 members being hired OT to back fill on a medic unit that morning. The administration advised that they were not aware of any firefighters working as the second person on a civilian unit. Kevin Preston, informed everyone in the room that this was either a simple roster mistake or a “test” on how names for medic units will be reflected on future rosters. In order to avoid confusion, Secretary Sisko exited the room and retrieved a copy of the roster so that we could get clarification on the issue. It was once again stated by Kevin Preston that the roster was incorrect and that the firefighter was operating as the FTO for the two civilians. After contacting the firefighter, it was learned that he was, if fact, operating as a paramedic with one civilian employee. Despite the assurances from Chief Williams that this would not occur, the administration allowed this to happen and, when questioned about it, attempted to deflect and hide the fact that it was occurring. As you can imagine, these actions did nothing to enhance the tone of the meeting.
The current position from the Executive Board is that due to the administrations lack of inclusiveness, information, and policies on the subject of “PMO / Medic Units that bargaining members should only be placed on apparatus with other members that are covered by the collective bargaining agreement.
After consulting our attorney, we believe any changes effecting our terms and conditions of employment must be made in the form of “impact bargaining” or through the collective bargaining process (contract negotiations).
After speaking further with the administration, it was learned that the intent of the department is to hire part time personnel to assist with the staffing of the civilian units. So, for those that are asking about the ability to work overtime on the civilian units, I would encourage you to look at the big picture. You would be working for only a period of time that would allow the department to train someone to do a portion of your job cheaper. Coupling this with the administrations secrecy and lack of inclusiveness, the Executive Board is not able to endorse this process yet. We have offered to include language that protects or current staffing and allows for future growth of the Civil Service and civilian members of the department but, so far, there has been no response from the city.
On the subject of bunker gear, the Local has been receiving a multitude of phone calls regarding the bunker gear that the Fire Chief has chosen. Local 1365 questioned the Fire Chief on this subject and he replied that he did take into consideration the bunker gear committee’s “opinions” but felt it was better to go with the gear providing the best thermal protection for our members. The current collective bargaining agreement states that the Health and Safety committee evaluates “existing equipment and changes in specifications for protective clothing and safety equipment.” Had this article been followed, Health and Safety members would have been made aware of the Bunker Gear testing committees recommendations in a timely fashion and been afforded the opportunity to make additional recommendations regarding our protective gear. Instead, the Health and Safety committee was neglected and the recommendation of the Bunker Gear committee was disregarded in order to purchase the bunker gear selected by the chief.
Local 1365 will be filing a grievance for not following the proper procedures under the requirements of the health and safety article of the contract. While we have spoken to many members of the Bunker Gear Testing committee, we welcome input from any committee member with regards to the selection of the bunker gear.
As mentioned in the heading of this update the subject of new hires was briefly discussed. Local 1365 requested an update on the status and future of new hires due to large number of vacancies that have or will be occurring due to retirements. Fire Chief Williams pledged that he will continue to fill FOB vacancies in accordance to his allotted staffing numbers. All things considered, some good news!!!
Your Executive Board will continue to meet with Fire Department and City Hall administration to correct some of the above stated issues. We will keep you informed of any changes. Please stay safe and do your best to attend the next Union Meeting on 2/18 @ 09:00 a.m.
IAFF Local 1365