June 2010 - President's Page Update
It has been an interesting couple of months. While most of you are going about your shift or day, this local is moving forward. I am going try to address some of the issues facing our local. I am still challenged as to what it will take for many of our members to get involved. As this local grows, so does the need for all of us to participate to make it stronger. Changing the minds and educating the 200,000+ citizens of Frederick County is going to take more than myself or a small number of union members to do so. It will take all of us.
As stated earlier, the following are issues I have been working on or been involved with since my last posting.
Since November the negotiations team has been working on our first contract. Everyone knows our list of items made it to the papers. Some members let it be known asking for a 4% raise and other items that would have cost the county money were greedy requests. But in negotiations it is important to ask for everything on the chance it will be accepted. As a committee, we realized monetary requests would probably be denied. We looked to achieve as many non-economic requests in order to achieve a better document. The county’s theme of the negotiations was the word “No”. In addition, we were informed many of our requests were not “wages and benefits”. Though there is a difference of opinion. Knowing we had no friends on the BOCC, only meant fighting these issues would be to no avail.
What became even more interesting some of our proposals were either cost neutral or saved the county money. The county is providing 80 hours of union (administrative leave). This item requires cash outlay by the BOCC. We proposed a union leave bank supported by the membership. Union leave banks are how many of the surrounding local IAFF leaders use leave for union duties. This was a cost neutral proposal. Another item was a Post Employment Health Plan. The County is required to put a 3% contribution to the plan. We provided a way to make the contribution without costing the county money. In reality they would have saved money. The proposal pushed across the table would have created a savings in payroll taxes however, it was denied.
On April 27 & 28, 2010 the contract was presented and accepted by a vote of the membership in attendance. I will be the first one to admit we are nowhere near contracts of surrounding locals. But we needed to start somewhere! I am hoping with a new Chief and a new slate of commissioners, our next contract will build on this current one.
A formal signing of the contract has been placed on the BOCC agenda for Tuesday morning, June 8, 2010. All are invited to attend, but I strongly encourage our membership to attend. We are trying to make an impression this political season. This would be an excellent start by filling the 3rd floor meeting room.
As I wrote in my last letter, Commissioner Thompson is pushing an ordinance to have the plan divest from investments in Iran & Sudan. This has a potential fixed cost to the plan of $40K per year in research fees and other related expenses. In addition, the plan will have investment losses which will compound over the years. The retirement committee voted against the proposed ordinance. The BOCC had a public hearing on the ordinance on April 6, 2010. If you haven’t seen it, take time to look at it. It is amazing to watch the ultimate conservative Comm. Thompson admit he is willing to cost the tax payers money to fund this. He openly admits he knows it will cost the plan. Plus, he is even willing to make the taxpayers cover the cost. Before going in we knew Comm. Gray was for the ordinance. He is the liaison to our committee. He attempted to sway us at the retirement committee meeting in March.
The goal was to find three votes during the presentation to kill the ordinance. Tracy Lobuts had already talked to Comm. Gardner. She understood the cost to the plan by following through with the proposed ordinance. Finding two more would be challenging. My goal was to talk in Comm. Young’s language – from a business perspective and the taxpayers footing the bill. Comm. Hagen proved to be for the ordinance as well. In the end, Mary Claire Cheshire, the consulting attorney to the committee, proposed several changes to the ordinance. These changes were added and voted into the ordinance as requested, with Commissioners Gardner, Hagen & Young voting for the changes. This changed the ordinance enough to give us leeway to avoid the divestiture process. We as a committee are also looking at changing the way we invest to avoid this as well.
Service Delivery Committee
The BOCC has mandated Chief Owens to come back in August with a way to revamp the way the county provides fire service. The Service Delivery Committee (for a lack of a better term) has started to meet. Chief Owens has provided an outline. The committee is to fill in how the outline will work. I attended the first meeting which had a wide range of dialogue. But the dialogue had a common tone to it. The commissioners have created part of the looming deficit through various motions over the years. This has been created by purchasing equipment that was not budgeted, moving expenses into the tax districts not originally budgeted, and reducing both tax rates by a penny. By FY13, there is a budgeted deficit of $18 million. This committee has been tasked to provide an alternative way to provide fire service to the county. In addition find ways to reduce costs in the process. At this point everyone appears to agree to not reduce the workforce. Some discussion has occurred about using volunteers to fill our spots. This is one area the chief already knows the union is against.
Originally the chief wanted to create sub committees to do some of the work. It was determined by the committee to do all the work. The committee was in consensus, to not have sub committees. This would stop the sub committees from doing a lot of work. Only to have it shot down at the committee level.
If you have any suggestions or questions please feel free to contact Brothers Chuck Scott 1-C, David Lal 2-A or Joe Chlebowski 31-C.
Sick leave donor program
On June 12th during the DFRS/Union meeting, we discussed the ability to do work swaps to cover sick leave. Since we are a young department, meaning the majority of our work force has less than 5 years on the job. It is a lot easier for someone to do a work swap to cover instead of donating leave. Past directors have been unwilling to discuss this process. Chief Owens understands the concept. He is willing to help us set a process or policy to allow this to happen.
This discussion became important on June 13th, when the BOCC voted to eliminate the sick leave donor program. After June 18th, an employee will not be able to request Sick Leave Donor hours. I will continue to pursue this change. I have requested Chief Brown place it on the agenda for our June meeting.
During the month of May, the local has attempted two different fundraisers. On May 8th we held a gun raffle. I want to thank Larry Kessler for organizing this event. We haven’t attempted a gun raffle for a couple of years. So unlike other gun raffles, we haven’t built a following for ticket purchases. Like any fundraiser there is always a learning curve. We will attempt to do another gun raffle later this year or early next year. If you have any suggestions or would like to help please pass them on to Brother Kessler.
The locals’ golf tournament for MDA was held on Friday May 28th at Hollow Creek Golf Course. I want to thank Brother Kevin Schmidt for taking over chairing the tournament. He also had help from Brother Mike Cole. Like many other tournaments in the area, golfer participation was down, along with the number of hole sponsors was also less than previous years. Overall the funds raised were down $1,700. I was discouraged to see a reduction in the number of members playing and the lack of hole sponsorship purchased by shifts. Ultimately those who attended the event had a good time. Please pass on any suggestions about improving the tournament to Brother Schmidt.
The number of candidates who have filed compared to my last post has risen from 4 to 7 candidates. The political groups are estimating up to twenty candidates are expected to file. The filing date is July 6th with the county and state election boards. My understanding several will be announcing in the last week of June and first week of July. Currently, I have started dialogues with one filed candidate and one prospective candidate. So far both candidates have little education on how the fire service is run in the county. This union will have a large task in front of us educating twenty candidates.
Over the last several months, I have had discussions with some you who are thinking about going to other jurisdictions. Many of you are discouraged on how the system is currently being handled. I have rarely, if any, had members come to me praising the way our current system is run. At this point, though there is a committee reviewing service delivery, and discussions have been had on the management of the system or lack there of. The fire service is going to be a political hot topic during this election. If you want to see a change and want to be involved in trying to make changes, let me know. The more we have involved in the process. The greater the opportunity we will have in bettering the fire service in this county.
Over the past several months, the local has been involved with several different personnel issues. A reoccurring problem is when you are notified of a disciplinary action you have a right to representation. DFRS is now calling the employee two hours before an action is to take place. They are advising you will either receive a visit or are requested to come to 340 Montevue Lane. Once this phone call is received the clock starts ticking on the employees two hour time limit to contact the local and obtain representation. Once you have been notified your next call should be to your union representative. If you are unable to contact them then call me. If you are unsure of your representative, the assignments are posted on the union webpage under “Officers & Staff”. You do not need to login to open this page. Every attempt will be made to have someone there at the time the disciplinary action occurs. This phone call should also be made if you are be investigated or interrogated on an issue. You need a second set of eyes and ears in the room that is on your side. Your representative is not emotionally involved in what is going on at the moment. They are there to protect your rights. Calling after you have been interrogated or received a disciplinary action only makes the next step in the process harder for you.
In regards to the actions, I have been involved in several disciplinary appeal actions over the past couple of months. I have been hearing negative comments about representing members at these appeal hearings. First, everyone who pays dues to this organization is provided representation when they request it. Next, representing these individuals makes sure that not only are they treated fairly, but consistent with past practices of the DFRS. In addition, as with any personnel action, not all information is published. With that being said, it is inappropriate for any other member to judge these individuals. There have been people who have been released because of their actions. But if we are successful in returning someone to the floor, means DFRS may not have considered all the facts on an original action. Some times it doesn’t take a lot to be put in a disciplinary action which your job is on the line. I will speculate if you anyone of you were these individuals position. You would want the local fighting for your job as well. We are all not perfect. One aspect of this union is to protect your rights.
Another issue I have seen crop up on a routine basis “What to do if I get hurt while working?” Whether in a recruit class or a day away from retiring, if you are hurt on the job, you need representation. These injuries need to be documented properly. If they are not, and you reinjure yourself, the workers comp insurance can argue it is a preexisting condition or non-work related injury. If they establish this defense, then you lose numerous benefits. When in doubt, contact Berman Sobin, & Gross, they will provide you with accurate information.
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