10/16/2009

As the Staffing Burns...

Posted by MJ


Drift Wood Fire Next To Low Water Bridge. Oldtown WVa.

LUSJ has an update on the recent arbitration ruling on the fire dept. minimum staffing requirement.

To have guaranteed minimum staffing of 10 firefighters per shift, as the arbitrator ordered, would require the city to hire nine more firefighters, Chief Thomas Passuite said. Barring that, it would have to more than double its annual overtime allowance for the fire department.
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Property owners won’t foot the bill, Mayor Michael Tucker vowed. The city will petition state Supreme Court for review of the arbitrator’s decision, and if the decision is upheld, the cost will be covered by fire service and/or staff cuts, he said.

“I hear through the grapevine some of (the union officers) are bragging, ‘We beat the city’ in arbitration. They’d better hope they lose in court, because if they don’t, the (stuff) is gonna hit the fan. Enough is enough,” Tucker said.
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The 50-man fire department is organized into four platoons that take turns manning 10- or 14-hour shifts. Given time-off privileges granted the men in the LPFFA contract, even the nine-man shift minimum isn’t being met without calling firefighters in on overtime.

Here’s why: The LPFFA contract allows for up to four firefighters per platoon to be off duty at any time. Three platoons have 12 firefighters while another has 11. Subtract up to 4 from either number; also subtract the number of “unscheduled” absences on a shift, due to sick call-in, injury or military duty; then figure out how many men have to be called in from other platoons, at 1.5 times their hourly pay rate, to meet the minimum manning number.
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The big issue seems to be the number allowed off a shift at any time (according to article that number does not include "unscheduled" time off: sick, injury, etc).  A third of the scheduled work force? It seems excessive. Freeze the minimum number at 9 (no injuries or potential threats due to reduced manning in the last 3 years per article). Trade the minimum off to 2 (would allow for 1 unscheduled absence per shift without invoking overtime) for the hiring of an additional firefighter to round out the last platoon to 12 like the others.

I also offered this up in a comment to a post last week:
Perhaps instead of full over time you have "on-call" situations. Pay someone a small rate to be on call on a one or two person short shift night (a bit like a volunteer). If a fire event happens where they need to respond to a scene and are called they can receive the overtime pay for that shift. The city of Lockport is small. They can arrive close to the responding vehicle.

Like most of the corporate world does, why not benchmark other similar sized NE cities that have the same good safety record yet do it with less money and/or overtime? No need to reinvent the wheel on our own.

Any other ideas? How about public referendums on budgets on public employee contracts? Or even a public comment period on them (is there one already?) It's always surprising to find out whats in some of them.

1 comments:

Rocketboy said...

"also subtract the number of “unscheduled” absences on a shift, due to sick call-in, injury or military duty".. other things to do, sunny days, rainy days, snowy days, extra beers in the fridge that need to be taken care of, too many beers the night before, weekend vacations, etc...

Trust me, the fire department isn't using sick days just for illness or not feeling 100%.

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