Sisters and Brothers,
We are in the honeymoon stage of changing the leadership of the Department, but what happens in the upcoming weeks and months will show us where we truly are. We are optimistic and supportive of Chief Marrone serving as Interim Acting Chief, and we are hard at work behind closed doors negotiating, collaborating, and adversely arguing over issues that are of utmost concern to us all.
So far, we have some momentum and good movement to get things moving in the right direction, including our memorials and services, lawsuits, and some operational items to ensure we are well positioned for fire season. But we have many things left unaddressed and in process with a lot of work needed to get these items settled.
We remind everyone, as we have reminded the BOS and the CEO, the same players are at the table with the Fire Chief. It remains to be seen if they all stay and if they do are they going to show up and get it done. All of the Executive Staff have varying levels of education, experience, and vision. Time will tell. We are confident with the Chief's leadership and accountability for the work. The Union is 100% committed to working with the Chief and the Executive Staff to get things done through collaboration and jointly negotiated work. However, we also stand solidly with our rights and ability to be adverse and push politically, legally or administratively to prevail on issues that demand our position be the policy.
Our most critical and paramount issue is our contract. We settled fringe benefits but our salary contract is stalled at the table. President Gillotte and the negotiations team co-chaired by Tony Carcioppolo and Chris Read with all members of the E Board on the team, has met with the CEO and the Fire Department representatives to try and get things moving again.
At issue is the ability to fund our contract with the COLA of 5.5% year one, 3.25% year two and 3.25% year three as the stumbling block. We have done the math. We believe we have identified the monies through shifting of priorities for the short-term, with a budget work together in the long-term. The CEO driving the work for the Department has indicated they don’t agree at this point.
President Gillotte met with Chief Marrone personally to appeal and present the issues and mechanisms to get it done. We are giving the Chief until Friday, September 23rd to get a position on the contract with any and all solutions to settled from his perspective. This is important because if the Fire Chief and the Union have an agreement on the mechanism to settle the COLA, then the CEO cannot just assert they don’t agree without the solutions presented to the BOS. The BOS also serves as our Fire District Board and has the ultimate authority over the CEO.
We want to again thank all the members for their solidarity and strength in “Working to the Rule". The impact has been great. We have supported finishing the Engineers Exam and promoting the Captains and Engineers ASAP to help with the vacancy gap in the upper ranks, but ALL OTHER EXTRA VOLUNTARY work we ask you to not volunteer and not give your time to the projects until we get this contract done. We meet with Chief Marrone weekly on work to the rule, and if anything needs our flexibility or if anything needs Direct Orders in writing from the Chief, you will know about it from us and from him. Thank you for your resilience and perseverance as we move the ball to the goal line yard by yard in the red zone.
Some of the other top issues we are asking the Chief to prioritize are staffing issues, staffing committee work, and the workers' compensation vacancy crisis. We are also discussing our funding crisis and the potential to run a signature ballot measure next year to put a fourth firefighter on the engines and provide infrastructure, apparatus and equipment funding, including our copters, behavioral health and follow-up issues relative to Sierra Incident.
The workers' compensation crisis that sees over 350 of our members off on Injury per month needs a bi-monthly meeting to address the solutions to fix our broken return to work system. We also side with the Fire Chief in demanding the County to pay for some of this mess as they are the sole authority to select Sedgwick as our third-party provider, and they are doing a terrible job managing our claims delaying treatment and increasing costs.
We look forward to reporting on the work product from the Fire Chief and the Executive Staff in the next couple of weeks.