Friday Update: August 31, 2018
Brothers & Sisters,
This month more than ever our membership has been reminded that our job is not easy and both post-traumatic stress incidents and cumulative stress issues can affect our behavioral health. There has been an increased level of attention and discussion to a number of job conditions: staffing and recalls; hiring and promotions; details; augmented staffing; online training and multiple passwords; EPCR issues; Paramedic and EMT licensure issues; and more. Concerning the impact of these and other working condition items such as post-traumatic stress incidents and cumulative stress, you will see more soon starting with a Safety Stand Down in September which will include training and discussions centered on this pressing matter facing not only our membership, but Firefighters nationwide.
We wanted to take a moment to update the membership on work that has been in progress and items currently under discussion. For over a decade, staffing and work schedule items have been not only a topic of discussion, but one of the major working condition items affecting our job, our membership and our lifestyles.
When times are tight and the spots are limited, the discussion is driven by who gets the work, how it is distributed, where it stays in station, when it goes out, etc. Details, strike team assignments, special projects and augmented staffing are not the enemy, but rather needed work and work embraced. I will leave it at that, but there have been times when 12 hours of work all the way across the County was very attractive to our members. When times are as they are now all over California with staffing shortages, vacancies in all ranks, details, special assignments in place and wildfire draw require our personnel for the work, spots are harder to fill, days off harder to garner, and the overall time spent at work increases. There is a break point where in some cases it becomes a drain on the members and families.
We must approach this issue and the related problems judiciously, methodically and with both the above conditions in mind. We must be cautious not to swing the pendulum too extreme in either direction taking care of our members, working conditions and ability to earn a good living. This does not mean, however, simply waiting for things to get better and not embracing potential changes or solutions both short-term and long-term that can help our members and still protect the mission.
Local 1014 has on numerous occasions throughout the last decade convened a Staffing Committee with Card File Captains from throughout the County and with Union Directors and VP’s to look for problems, ideas and changes to make our staffing fair, with regard to earning a wage and also tempered to protect our ability to access our schedules.
In short, we provide the workforce for the work of Firefighter, Paramedic, Dispatch, Forestry, FSA, Fire Prevention and Heavy Equipment duties to serve the public. We own that work and no one else can have it. As a Union, we not only protect that work, but we have an obligation to provide the workforce. We do that well with Local 1014 members. It goes without saying that the Department has a responsibility to hire, promote and train our workers sufficiently to enable the workforce. We have to provide the labor for both regular shifts and SRC as well. Perhaps if the Union took over hiring, training, promoting and medic school recruitment and retention, we would not have the problems we have, but as you know that is not the case.... yet! Don’t count that out. For now, here is a summary of the work in progress and what is next.
Most recently the Staffing Committee, led by 1st Vice President Dave Morse and 2nd Vice President Lew Currier, convened and reviewed hundreds of pages of policies and practices regarding staffing and recalls and their impact, including subjects such as: filling 7 days in advance, qualified personnel, recall procedures and all staffing practices. The Card File Captains we brought in were from various regions and specialties to provide a different perspective. Several recommendations for subtle to radical changes are being proposed by Local 1014, crafted by members on the committee for the Department. The changes must be agreed to by both the Department and the Union to take effect. We also are looking at the 5 shifts in a row and max shifts per year limits. The Union has consistently opposed both limits. Our position is to let the workers who want to work do so. We successfully lift the cap when we are in situations where strike teams, state and local need is at capacity and beyond. We believe a permanent lift with reasonable fatigue and job conditions training would work well.
One of the more radical concepts embraced by the Committee and supported but the Executive Board is to fill spots 7 days out instead of 3 days. This is consistent with departments statewide who have seen success in earlier fill for many reasons while we temper the card file captains and stations work against the benefits. We are proposing this to the Department in our committee meeting. We have also proposed examining the 40-hour and special detail positions both temporary and more permanent for a risk vs. gain analysis and to return the detail positions that are more draw than benefit while protecting the work and mission critical assignments.
Heavily debated on social media, email and text is the thought of giving credit to workers who work recall credit. While the committee is not proposing this currently, the committee is developing the concept that for every 5 shifts, as an example, a member would get a recall credit. We have seen the benefit of this type of plan, but also the detriment with workers accepting the positions, getting recall relief for days and then backing out of the original fill days used to garner the recall credit and relief. The argument that workers who don’t want to work any overtime would be first up or forced to work has been considered, and hence no proposal is ready in this area without further vetting. We must have all workers ready, willing and able to work their regularly assigned days and sometimes a few more for SRC, Strike Team and emergency situations where we are needed. This takes into account those same persons burning days of benefit time to be off and using annual vacation to protect blocks of time when needed as well as our ability to time exchange. There is a constant dance to keep the balance of members working and to protect our work inclusive of SRC and to not bind our members in an over taxing way.
We will keep you informed regarding Staffing Committee work and any resulting negotiated changes in policy or practice either permanent or in trial. We will take a look at all ideas. Please send them to the Directors on the Executive Board via email or text or just call a Board Member direct.
Finally, I encourage all members to debate vigorously, vet and discuss all ideas. The democracy and vitality of any organization including Local 1014 and this Department is dependent upon disagreement and debate leading to solidarity, clear direction and action. Any new ideas or outside the box thinking will come from the members and the Union, not the Department. I can assure you, however, the Fire Chief and I have spoken and he is committed to the conversation and supportive of ideas and changes coming from the Union. It is in his best interests to help fix the problems and proactively take action. The goal for everyone is to be the best we can be in all that we do, and support the workers who handle the mission.
SAVE THE DATE: SEA OF BLUE - On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Local 1014 along with Los Angeles County Lifeguards Association (LACoLA) will be asking members to attend the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting to demonstrate our resolve and make our voices heard to our elected officials. We will not leave money on the table and we will not waiver in the fight for our members. Not since 2005 have labor unions had to come together to demonstrate before the Board of Supervisors.
We need your help to make it clear to the members of the Board of Supervisors that labor is united and that we will not accept less than we deserve. We will be sending out more information on this as we near the date.
Additionally, our Executive Board has also been working hard together with our labor partners at the County Coalition Unions (CCU) on bargaining for our fringe benefits. We are making progress on this front. We will update you as more information becomes available.
President Dave Gillotte and your Executive Board