Monday, October 25, 2010

The Firemen's Union: Overtime Abuse or Necessary Expense?

According to our contract, Easton's Fire Department must have 14 fire-fighters scheduled for each of three shifts, in case several want to take sick leave or vacation at the same time--in which case we pay for the others to work overtime.

Posted by: Noel Jones

Christopher Baxter's article in The Morning Call outlines the questions surrounding the $500K+ that Easton's taxpayers will shell out for overtime for our fire department this year. We pay more per resident for fire protection than both Allentown and Bethlehem.

What do you think? Is it a necessary expense, or is the union abusing overtime?


Anonymous said...

Since when is level of staffing a union decision -- it is management's right to determine the level of service. Do our police officers have the same in their contract?

noel jones said...

Good question--if anyone out there knows, please post, and I will try to find out when I can. I would also like to know when our police and fire contracts are next up for negotiation.

Anonymous said...

Minimum staffing is a safety thing. Basicly you need a set a number of firefighters in a set amount of time to safely put out a fire. The standard is called NFPA 1710. To use an analogy, an M 1 Abrams tank needs a crew of 4 to function effectively. If you try to function with less it is unsafe and not effective. You aren't going to send you tank into battle without a loader for example. Firefighting is no different. At a fire there are set jobs that need to be done at the same time. Eason meets the minimum standard. They should not run below the standard. Allentown and Bethlehem have larger populations so the cost is spread more evenly. In allentown the shift is 28 firefighters. In theory this is enough to handle two fires at the same time. It is twice the staffing level of Easton but Allentown has almost four rimes the popuation so the cost per person is lower.

Anonymous said...

management has to have the ability to control costs. I called the police department and they do not have minimum manning in their contract. So theoretically management could have 4 officers on duty - one per neighborhood. That would be rediculous. But if there are 14 on a platoon and five were off say during the day why shouldn't management have the opportunity to run with 9, especially since there are officers that work inside during the day and can respond as necessary.

Taking that exemple to the fire department with 14 firefighters and 5 call in that they are off instead of bringing one in for the full day why not let the 2 chiefs respond if there is a day fire and bring a firefighter in for the night shift.

My point is simple -- mimimum staffing is a management decision....not the union's.

Dennis R. lieb said...

I get the distinct feeling that staffing as per NFPA guidelines (National Fire Protection Association, who also write the fire codes for building safety) is a little more complex than a simple "management decision". I'd like to know what level of authority NFPA has at the city level; i.e. are they a civic standard that communities follow to achieve certain insurance ratings, etc?

These details seem key to me in determining the proper way for citizens to evaluate our FD's performance and contract issues.