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:
- 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.
- Longevity or Seniority pay will be removed.
- No 401K.
- Assignment pay will be removed.
- Educational and fitness pay will be removed.
- Shift differential pay will be removed.
- Swing pay will be removed.
- 15 days of sick leave will be allowed each year. A 90 day maximum lump, can be paid upon retirement. (Previously 180 days)
- 15 days of vacation each year is allotted. No carry over is allowed from year to year.
- 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.