Sunday, November 13, 2016

Civil Service and the Fire Union


You may have noticed at the early polling places that the fire union, APFF was asking citizens to sign their petition.  They may have explained the reason in terms of better hiring practices, etc.  So let me go into some things that they didn’t tell you.

The only reason that the fire union has this petition is to get Civil Service on the ballot in May.  The only reason they want Civil Service is because the union and the Fire Chief don’t get along.  If different people were in these positions, Civil Service wouldn’t be on the ballot.  This issue has been on the ballot twice before and was soundly defeated in 1979 and in 1991.  In both instances the margin was 65% against and 35% for. 

Civil Service allows promotions to be accomplished by testing only.  Highest score gets promoted.  There is no interview process, and personal skills are disregarded altogether.  A disciplinary problem is handled by a board of civilians, not fireman.  The board will be appointed, and a Civil Service Director will be hired, with taxpayer dollars, to run the process.   Currently we use a neutral arbitration process.  Since 2007 there have been 59 arbitrations, 47 police, 8 fire, and 4 civilian.  The current Chief has only been involved in 3 such arbitrations. The process works very well because only 4 decisions have been overturned in the last 9 years.  One was in the fire department.

During the last two years housing values have risen.  This increase has allowed the city to give much needed raises to our staff.  In this instance the firemen have received the biggest slice of the pie and their respective pay checks have risen above those of commensurate positions in other cities.  This apparently is not enough.  They want the Chief replaced.  So the Council has given the firefighters a good job, in a good city, with a very nice wage, allowing them a very nice standard of living, while only requiring a high school degree.  The Council has been sympathetic to the union in the past.  We responded to the publishing of “The Book” by accomplishing an audit.  The Chief was exonerated.  Then a survey was ordered by Council.  The Chief responded to the results, but the union did not.  Now it is Civil Service that the union wants.  This is a slap in the face to the Council.  If Civil Service is established  the following will happen:

  1.  All firefighters in the same civil service classification will be entitled to the same base pay.  Any additional pay will be at the behest of the City Council.
  2. Longevity or Seniority pay will be removed.
  3. No 401K.
  4. Assignment pay will be removed.
  5. Educational and fitness pay will be removed.
  6. Shift differential pay will be removed.
  7. Swing pay will be removed.
  8. 15 days of sick leave will be allowed each year.  A 90 day maximum lump, can be paid upon retirement.  (Previously 180 days)
  9. 15 days of vacation each year is allotted.  No carry over is allowed from year to year.
  10. No allocation of pay for union business.

All of the above have been granted in the past by Council.  I for one will not be voting to reinstate any of them.  If the union wants civil service then that is what they will get, not a hybrid of the current philosophy and civil service.  If the union has a problem with their Chief it should be resolved in house and not put on display to the citizens.  If they can’t live with the result of having the current Chief in his position, then there are other fire departments all over the Metroplex that you can transfer to.  For a union to be so concerned about W-2, it would seem that with this move power is the real motivator, and if it costs dollars to its members so be it.

10 comments:

  1. Charlie,
    You are ill informed. The ONLY two reasons why we are looking for civil service is for a better work environment and ability for change. Our current promotional vendor has had numerous complaints, suggestions and grievances. Nothing has changed. Our discipline process is antiquated. It needs to be updated, some of the discipline was already handed down before the incident was completely investigated. Also, the level of discipline for the same act is sporadic.
    Chuck, our wages have been historically low compared to other cities our size. We have been averaging #7 and #8 out of the ten comparison cities, for at least ten years. Yes, the city has provided us with a gracious compensation package. I cannot say thank you enough! To say that we are greedy for wanting a little bit more to be comparable to others is ignorant. To slander us and say that it is our fault for the spousal removal from medical insurance to finance our raise is infantile. I have a $10,000 reduction in household income due that decision. I now have two high premiums, two $4,000 deductibles and two $12,000 maximum out of pocket insurances to pay for. To imply that we are responsible for every other employee affected by your decision is immature. There was another solution, delay the raise or not even offer it.
    Charles, your list of items that will be removed if civil service does happen, is dependent upon the council. You have stated that you will not vote to reinstate any of them. Is that out of vengeance or equality for every employee? There will be sacrifices on our end and there will be a savings as well. But, to vehemently state no prior to any information on the matter is childish.
    Chucky, I am not here to spoon feed you, research it a great tool. May I suggest you use numerous sources. Listen to a Meet and Confer meeting and you may understand a little bit more. There are numerous times when our leadership has refused to talk about items. That is the purpose behind the meetings. Visit an association meeting. Look at all the open record requests the association HAD to ask for. You stated that the city benefits $77 million from Globe Life Park, annually, for the past 30 years. I believe that is enough to keep the spouses on the insurance and maybe provide the raises we requested. How about keeping the retirees and their spouses on medical insurance? Or will you blame the association for those as well? How much does the city receive from AT&T Stadium? I understand we need to reinvest in the city, but at what cost? The employees?
    Mr. Parker, do not be misguided by your puppeteer. These are similar items you fought for years ago.
    Sincerely,
    Joe

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  2. Mr. Joe thank you for your ill-informed rant concerning previous decisions, and your current request for Civil Service. 1. You have stated that: To slander us and say that it is our fault for the spousal removal from medical insurance to finance our raise is infantile. The truth of the matter is that all employee groups received a 4% raise last year, but that wasn’t enough for the fire union because they were greedy. They wanted 5.5%. If they had just taken the 4% spouses would still be on insurance. The fire department was the only group to get the 1.5% increase. I worked very hard to try and keep spouses on our insurance and made a plea to Council with an alternate plan. I was the only Council member to vote NO on the budget to try to keep spouses on city insurance. If Crow had simply taken the raise that everyone else received, you wouldn’t have the premiums that you have now. So blame your greedy union and not me.
    2. You have stated: You have stated that you will not vote to reinstate any of them. Is that out of vengeance or equality for every employee? But, to vehemently state no prior to any information on the matter is childish. Again the truth of the matter is that YOU, or your union, want Civil Service. If that is what you want and, you are successful in your efforts against the city, then that is what we will give you. Nothing more and nothing less. Remember that your fight is against city management and the Council. Do you really believe that when this is done you will get all of the current benefits that you have now? Are you crazy? With this effort you are going out of your way to slap the city’s face. Again the truth is that the city feels as though you are ungrateful for the W-2 increases you have received in the last two years. You have a great job in the Best Big City in the South to Live. You have great wages which afford you a good standard of living, and you want to distance yourself from city administration. Why?

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  3. 3. This is the good one! You have been duped by your union. There are certain senior people in the Fire Department that cannot be promoted using the current process, because of past actions that would preclude their advancement. The only way for them to advance is by test only. Civil Service advances by test only. Isn’t that a coincidence? The Council hires 4 people. (City Manager, Auditor, Attorney and Judge) None are tested, all are interviewed extensively. There is more to hiring than answers on a paper. Truth tells me that you don’t like the Chief who is the “promotional vender.” I am totally surprised that the younger firefighters would take it on the chin in W-2 for senior members that are not promotable.
    You also have problems with the disciplinary process. We use an independent arbitrator for these major infractions. In the last ten years there have been 59 disciplinary arbitrations, 8 were in the Fire Department. Of the 8, the current Chief brought 3 to arbitration. This Chief’s rate of disciplinary actions is lower than the previous Chief. Only one arbitration was over turned in the Fire Department, in the last ten years. So the disciplinary process is independent and just. There is no reasonable discussion to be had here. The facts speak for themselves.
    I think that it is very important for the truth to be told, concerning this challenge by the Fire Union. What you are saying is, changing current advancement policies and removing neutral arbitration are more important to me than the current benefits package that the city has provided. Your union has gotten you to this point. Meet and confer will go away. There will be no avenue for you to voice your issues. Civil Service is a big mistake!
    Lastly let me state Joe (with no last name) that I think that you have a problem with authority. Since you couldn’t provide me with your last name you have called me several names that I don’t think you would use if I were talking to you face to face. You seem disenfranchised with Arlington, and authority. I think that your talents would be better appreciated in another city.

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  4. Charlie Parker. Please be advised. The members af the Arlington Fire Department are members of an Association-not a Union-as you have been so blatantly throwing out. As far as I know, there are no Firefighter Unions in Texas, or in any municipal city. There is quite a difference. I don't know if your comments were ment to inflame the unknowing public, or your lack of education on this subject. Please change your language when addressing this matter in the future. Thank you.
    Michael E. Naydan

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  5. Well Mr. Naydan I believe that your association is in fact a union. Does it do the following:
    An association, combination, or organization of employees who band together to secure favorable wages, improved working conditions, and better work hours, and to resolve grievances against employers.
    If it does, then you are a union because that is the definition of a Union. The fact that you may be filed under IRS code 501c6 instead of 501c5 is of very little consequence to me. Whatever you want to call yourself is fine. But if you look, walk and sound like a duck, you’re a duck.

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    1. Look it up. An Association does not enjoy the same rights and benefits as a Union. You should know since you claimed to be a Union member at one time. I don't know what your beef is with any type of organized labor is, but you really should not lump them all together. I remember when I started the job over 30 years ago, nobody wanted it and people rarely stayed until retirement. Maybe the City liked it that way. Stuff routinely burned to the ground. We still have The highest rates of on the job injury, death, cancers, divorces, mental issues--all job related. Ben there done it. Last thing we need are some smug remarks from know it all, would be politicians with an agenda, looking to make a name for themselves.
      We could go back to the way it was, just coming to work, not really caring, to rest up for another job. Of course you know, line Firefighters work a regular 56 hour work week, then throw in another 24 OT shift to pay for wife's insurance, leaves a lot of family time.
      By the way, I'm retired, and I've "done more with less" and seen and heard all of councils rhetoric, but of course, you know that also. I still dabble in the Fire business, but as a Volunteer, less BS to put up with from the unknowing, and more appreciation.
      Michael E. Naydan

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    2. Mr. Naydan, with your above comment I now can state, without question, that you don't know what we are talking about. The Firefighters Union is trying to remove themselves from the city system and establish Civil Service instead. The problem is that their union is conning them into believing that they will get Civil Service and maintain all the benefits that they currently enjoy. This is not the truth. As stated before, I tried to maintain spousal insurance to negate Union greed over a 1.5% increase in W-2. This is a fight between City Government and a militant labor union, that has gotten themselves in a situation that they don't like. (they don't like the Chief and their actions have removed millions in overtime)Therefore, they want to establish a jobs for life program, without recourse for their actions. They also want advancement by test, and not because you are the best person for the job. The union will put this on the ballot and forfeit the best W-2 in the Metroplex for these two items. If they win the firefighters will lose at least 20% of their W-2. Spousal insurance will have been removed for nothing. Even you must be able to realize the stupidity of this position. The non union firefighters that I have talked to all realize the fallacy of this effort. So the union will state to the rank and file that they will maintain their benefits package, while voting in Civil Service. I can assure you that nothing is further from the truth. You reap what you sow.

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    3. Mr Parker. I was a faithful member of the APFFA for 25 years. I disagreed with direction the current leadership and board were going. (Coincidentally some of the same members now). I got out for my last 5+ years of service.
      When I hired on, I was asked- will you do ABC for XYZ? I was hired and fulfilled my part faithfully, I was given what I was promised (free spouse insurance, for example ) for a while. Benefits eroded. Well the city, as many times before, spends more time and money trying not to live up to contracts, than just going ahead and doing the right thing. They can change the policy later for new hires, but honor their word with the current employees. Pay... when I left (2012) we hadn't had a real raise that went towards our retirement since 2007. We had little bonuses that were taxed at 30% ( which the APFFA liked,) I would have took less for a real raise that went towards my retirement, (sound familiar?) and we had the new stadium that was making money, tax receipts were up and we couldn't understand why we couldn't get our share after so many cuts and freezes in benefits that were in promises.
      Once you promote to a certain level in the AFD, you fall in line behind the city management, no questions asked.
      I think I see the problem. Rank and file just want all the things promised them by the city and management and consistency. As far as the testing, it has been like that since time immemorial. They test for managers, always for the rank above the tested position. Like any organization, management has a preference for the kind of people they like to promote. They want you to fit in, but they really can't stop you from promoting on the lower level tests, just the ones with Administrative interviews. You fit or you don't. If you want the job, study for it and change. Otherwise it's the "Peter Principle". They think Civil Service will guarantee promotion. These are relatively young employees with little work experience. They don't know, not like 20-30 years ago that had previous outside work experience. I have been real Union (Teamsters) and Civil Service. Both can be good or bad depending on the employees and employers. I sure would like the spouse insurance (free) the city promised me and provided me at one time.
      I know the cost of insurance has gone up exponentially and no one could have predicted it 30 years ago. But on the other hand, who would know 30 years ago, a bunch of dumb Firemen would also become First Responders--EMT-I, and Paramedics, giving the City and its citizens twice the bang for its buck. We didn't sign up for that, just to fight fires and paint fire plugs, but it happened. Our skill levels are through the roof to this day, and we have saved a lot of lives.
      I never said I was for Civil Service, I just didn't like some of the light you unfairly portrayed some of my Brothers in. Yes, I said Brothers. I take them all, good or bad. Maybe more education on this matter is the key. Divide and conquer, everyone pissed off at each other isn't going to do anything. It makes for a long day together. Employee-Managment relationships are adversarial by nature, but they don't have to be antagonistic.
      City and council work to do what is best for both employees and citizens. For years Arlington bragged they did more with less city employees per citizens. Things are better now. All the older employees knew when they hired on they were trading their "bird in the hand for their bird in the bush", better retirement benefits than upfront pay. Some younger employees don't understand or appreciate this concept. That is where education comes in, and some kind of trust and binding, unbreakable contracts.
      If you have the experience on both these issues you say you have, I think you could use your "Grandfatherly" skills to guide and advise with a gentle hand on the shoulder, instead of a continuous one up beside the head. Yes, I know who you are dealing with. Good luck.
      Michael E. Naydan

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    4. Mr. Naydan thank you for your last post. It was well written and thoughtful, with plenty of insight. This adversarial relationship between the Firefighters Association and the Chief has been going on, much to the displeasure of Council, for several years now. It has now escalated to the Association against City Management. I asked yesterday what the appetite of Council was on this subject, and it wasn't good. Therefore, I do not see a good outcome for the Association concerning Civil Service. In a twelve month period of time Council has given the Firefighters a 9.5% raise. They showed Council their gratitude by trying to remove themselves from the umbrella of the City. Well here is some "Grandfatherly" advise. Don't bite the hand that feeds you. Go to your union leadership and remove Civil Service from the ballot. You have a pretty good thing going, but you are pissing in the soup.

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  6. Below is a link that tells what a Trump administration will do to Civil Service workers in years to come. I find this interesting because the Fire Department Union wants to go to Civil Service and give up what is currently in place. When you look at the See-Saw of what you get with Civil Service and compare it to the current benefits package, the answer is obvious to me. Be thankful for what you have.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/11/21/trump-republicans-plan-to-target-government-workers-benefits-and-job-security/?hpid=hp_hp-top-table-main_fedworkers-9a%3Ahomepage%2Fstory

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