Brothers & Sisters,
This Friday we have much to be thankful for as Local 1014 members and yet we also have much work to do to navigate the current environment. We provide the best service in the world with the most talented members in our profession and we have challenges we overcome each and every day. Please see the updates below on some of those challenges and the work we have in progress.
We have opened up a dialogue with the County of Los Angeles and the Fire Chief for negotiations on our MOU. We negotiate our salary MOU separately from our Benefits MOU which we negotiate with the Coalition of County Unions (CCU). Our contract for 601/602 members expires on December 31st. We are in the works to negotiate a successor MOU and get the protections of an MOU continued into 2021. The priorities for the Board unanimously are the Post PEPRA Plan C issues. Like in the past for B and A members, we worked tirelessly overtime to negotiate Plan B benefits up to where they are now. Likewise, while there is time, the changes need to be priorities. Specifically, we have proposals and plans to add longevity in rank to post PEPRA Plan C members that would replace “Ventura” for Holiday and Vacation. Sick is protected.
Also, a priority is to get contributions into a Retiree Medical Trust (RMT) your Local 1014 Executive Board created to allow pre-tax contributions, earnings, and expenditures for durable medical goods so that the premium for spouses in retiree health can be covered. This will work similarly to LACERA with a Board of Trustees from the Unions, earnings and contributions will pay for the benefit.
Also, the comp time days are working well and most members agree we would like to add some days as we are dealing with the overtime caps. More as we progress. We have a new CEO and we are working with the Fire Chief and the BOS on all negotiations. Know that the number one priority for all talks is Plan C equivalencies. It is time to pressure these changes.
48/96 Trial Schedule Change
I have walked this proposal to four of the five Board of Supervisors offices with good reception to our plan. We have worked through the technical items for payroll, timekeeping and staffing with a committee I formed and 48/96 folks with my payroll specialists were involved. Thanks to Lyle Koegler and the 48/96 crew for their hard work on the PowerPoint material that we put together for our walks. COVID has certainly slowed talks, but we are moving forward. I also went over the proposal with the Fire Chief. We will be finalizing our discussions. I have asked for his support as we work to get this done with the BOS. This is exciting. Let us not fear change, but embrace the evaluation of change and decide again together whether it stays. Stay tuned.
While the sky is not falling, it would be fair to characterize our Fire Department Budget as having some clouds on the horizon. I know some chiefs have been out in the field talking of doom and gloom and reductions. The truth is we don’t know yet where we will end up with regards to property tax revenues collected on December 31st. We also have an election where Proposition 13 and Proposition 19 which will have huge positive impacts in the hundreds of millions of dollars for our Fire District.
As a result of a long hard meeting with the Fire Chief, we will be holding off on any proposed staffing reductions which were proposed by OPS until we evaluate our final financial position. We have reserves but the question of how much to use to pay ongoing cost is still in question. Additionally, I have agreed and committed to working WITH the Fire Chief and his staff to evaluate the revenues, budget items, and cost containments including curtailment procedures with levels of priority. We continue serious planning discussions next week.
In conclusion, please know that we, like all other agencies, while better off because we are primarily funded by property taxes, are also in distress like they are and we must take decisive actions to navigate this temporary downturn. Long-term the projections look good for us. Please help with all areas of efficiencies and work that can assist us.
We have twice the personnel off on workers' compensation injuries than our long-term historical numbers. We have nearly 300 workers off each month and we should be more towards 100-130 in regular years. There are a number of reasons why we are seeing this, all of which you all know. We need to work to ensure our members get the treatment they deserve and return them to work efficiently to reduce this cost and reduce the OT as a result. We are meeting to work on some outside the box solutions through our workers' compensation carve-out. We want not only a better system but cost savings that could be in the neighborhood of $20-30 million per year. This certainly has an impact on our staffing shortages.
Entry Level Hiring List
I have asked the Fire Chief to extend the current hiring list by one year and to continue with the aggressive entry-level hiring we have cooperatively been driving. He has agreed and we will continue to push to run towers until we are full. September is netting two more classes, and January has a class scheduled and we likely will see 3 more in 2021, and then push to stay on schedule with lists and entry-level testing, promotions, and medic school recruitments in a cadence where NO RANK is short on bodies. This is great news on the hiring front and the impact on staffing shortages.
As you know, we are losing inmates for our inmate camps. This is occurring at a time when we need every available crew. The Union is working with Chief Pena and Air and Wildland to make a pivot to additional Paid FSA crews, and the potential to build up to 20 more with anti-recidivism monies. We have long thought that 172 money and incarceration money filtered to us through the Sheriff, the State, and Probation would better be served to fund our crews and camp program. We have met with the BOS resulting in a Board motion last week to direct the Fire Chief and Union to come up with a plan to bring to the BOS. We are cautiously optimistic that we will be able to expand the Paid FSA crews even more. We are reinventing the program to meet our needs with the new rules and funding sources. Thank you in advance to Vince Pena for your tireless efforts to partner.
Social Media Policy
As a result of a very high profile call and photos leaked out to the public and a series of lawsuits, new state legislation making it a misdemeanor to shoot and post personal photos has been signed into law. We asked the Department to cowrite a policy many years ago, but it sat unanswered. We are now trying to craft a policy that will work to protect our members and be compliant with the new law. We all want to adhere to standards of decency and common sense and treat those we serve as if they were our own family. More as we get this done, but for now, please be cautious in all you shoot and post.
Strike Team Staffing and R Days
We have approached the Fire Chief to continue ongoing staffing discussions to address the Strike Team and pre-deployment staffing and it’s impact on regular staffing including recalls. It was a shooting match for a minute with 24-hour relief in the county, 5 days or 7 days with recalls and we landed at 5 for recall, 7 for ST assignments in County or Out to lessen the burden on our members with drives and getting briefed for safe operations on the incidents. We want to solidify new standard ST Staffing for incidents and 24-hour switch and relief for weather pre-deploy.
The discussions are not new, and the policy revisions are sitting on the CD of OPS desk. We were also not happy that we helped with the ST Staffing for incidents at the same time the Department lifted the caps so as to not have to give an R day... a line in the rules and Reg’s not often used, but certainly seemed to be used with purpose this round after our hard work was realized. We had a good discussion with the Chief and I think we get a fair and equitable policy revision finalized very soon.
As many of you know, AFFF has been found to be carcinogenic. We are working with Strausner and Sherman as a point of contact to coordinate any and all potential claims for cancer with those members who have worked with AFFF foam. You will hear more as we navigate that path with other agencies as a result of the new state law we passed. We also have been working on a foam replacement and mitigation plan and it looks like we have found a way to dispose of our old foam and get the new foam to the units we need it on. Chief Whittle has been point working with my health and safety board members to get this done and in a cost-effective manner. You will see the notification when this occurs.
30th Anniversary of LA County USAR
Yesterday, marked the 30th anniversary of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Urban Search and Rescue (USAR)! Local 1014 members built the program from the ground up, brick by brick.
Our USAR team is known as Task Force 2 and is one of only two UASI certified and FEMA Federal Emergency Management Agency certified international teams able to respond to disasters and emergencies worldwide.
Our team has responded to several major international and national incidents including September 11th World Trade Center recovery, Hurricane Katrina and Rita, Christ Church New Zealand and Haiti and Mexico Earthquakes, the Sri-Lanka and Japan Tsunamis, the Atlanta Olympic Bombing, the Paradise Fire Recovery, and many many more incidents. Our members put themselves in harm's way to rescue people around the world.
For the last 30 years, Local 1014 has fought for the funding and the use of TF-2 through advocacy at the Congressional, Senate and Presidential level to ensure our team and the system stays funded and protected. Your Executive Board has walked the halls in Washington DC halls on behalf of this program and our team. When the team called us and proposed added a PM spot to the team for protecting their own, we listened, crafted a plan and negotiated that change as well. We take great pride in all our USAR team members accomplish.
Please take a minute honor the members of Local 1014, both past and present who have made this team an amazing part of our rich and diverse history in the fire service. We set the trends, we pave the way, we craft the future.
Finally, please remember to give space for a difference of opinions in the firehouse including views on politics, COVID-19, and operations. We are diverse and we have members on both sides of the aisle, and both sides of the issues. Meme posting and social media degradation of each other, the Union, or the mangers of the Department for that matter serve no purpose.
We have a Local 1014 election around the corner, and we have already heard from a handful of passionate and skilled members with interest. If you have interest pick up the phone and call anyone on the board to chat about the work and the duties and issues the Union is involved in. There are so many at the state, national, and local levels. This is our Union with open doors and plenty of work to go around. The future belongs to the rich and diverse workforce getting younger each year, and the talent in our millennial and mid-career firefighters is immense. Let us cultivate that talent and ensure Local 1014 remains strong and powerful on behalf of us all past, present and future.
As always stay safe and take care of each other.
In Solidarity and Strength,