PHILADELPHIA FIRE DEPARTMENT
GENERAL MEMORANDUM #10-116
October 4, 2010
TO : All PFD Fire Service Paramedics
REF/AUTHORITY : Fire Commissioner
SUBJECT : IMPLEMENTATION OF PLRB UNIT CLARIFICATION DECISION
As you probably know by now, the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) ruled on September 21, 2010 that the position of Fire Service Paramedic should not be in the IAFF Local 22 bargaining unit because City of Philadelphia paramedics do not perform fire suppression and are not fire fighters under the law.
The effect of this decision is that paramedics are now non-represented civil service employees of the City. The terms of the collective bargaining agreement/interest arbitration awards between the City and Local 22 no longer apply. This in no way diminishes any paramedics standing as a uniformed member of the Philadelphia Fire Department.
I am sensitive to the fact that this decision has raised many questions about what this means for the terms and conditions of your employment. The City is committed to implementing this decision in an orderly way.
I will be conducting informational sessions on Tuesday, October 5, 2010 and Thursday, October 7, 2010 from 1900 to 2100 hours at the Philadelphia Fire Academy. I invite all paramedics to attend and ask any questions you may have. In the meantime, this memo serves as the first attempt to answer some of your questions. More information will follow.
• Wages: There will be no change to your base wages at this time.
• Longevity Pay: Consistent with the rules in place for non-represented civil service employees of the City, longevity and step increments will be frozen until the Mayor determines that economic conditions permit increases to be made. Your current longevity and pay step will not decrease as a result of this freeze.
• Premium Pay and Overtime: The City will continue to calculate and compensate you for premium pay based on your regular work schedule and overtime for hours worked outside your regular work schedule on the same basis that it has been doing so: (Continued)
Premium pay will be paid in the amount of 3 hours per week at “Rate 3”, the higher rate used to calculate your overtime and premium pay. Premium pay will offset against any overtime due for working up to 42 hours per week.
If you work more than 15 minutes after your regular shift, you will be paid overtime at a rate of one-and-one-half times Rate 3, regardless of the day worked or how many hours you have worked that week.
If this is going to change in the future, you will be provided notice in advance.
• Union Dues: The City will stop deducting Union Dues beginning with the October 8, 2010 paycheck.
• Legal Service Fees: The City will stop making a contribution to the Union legal services fund on behalf of FSPs.
• Health Care: As a non-represented employee, you and your families are eligible for coverage under the City Administered Plan. Additional information about the City’s plans will be provided to you separately. The City has agreed with Local 22 that Local 22 will provide health coverage to you and your families for the month of October 2010 to allow time for that changeover to occur.
• Leave Benefits: Your leave benefits will remain unchanged at this time.
• Grievance and Discipline: You will still be entitled to a trial board when charged with disciplinary action. You have the right to challenge certain personnel directions pursuant to the appeal process available to non-represented employees under the Civil Service Regulations.
• Pension: Information about pension will be provided in the near future.
The administration truly appreciates everyone’s understanding and cooperation during this implementation process.
The City of Philadelphia, specifically the Nutter Administration has declared war on the Fire Department. Ironically the Fire Department is by far the most efficient and hardest working department in the entire city government. We are also the most powerless. Until now Firefighters and Paramedics were part of the same union, Local 22 IAFF. Unlike a real union that most people are familiar with we are more of a bargaining unit. We can’t strike due to the essential nature of our work and extreme working conditions we face. That means at contract time we sit down with the city and each side presents its case before a panel of arbitrators. Normally the city pleads poverty and asks for draconian work rules while the local asks for minimum pay and benefit increases to keep the members who are legally bound to live in the city from going broke. After the testimony the neutral arbitrator, after considering the facts presented issues an award. Both sides are bound to live with it. At least that is what ACT 111 says.
The reality is that the city uses a state finance law (PICA) to stall and appeal any provision they don’t like. That means any benefits we as firefighters and medics win, can be postponed or eliminated altogether. It’s a sh*tty situation and more often than not we end up getting the short end of the stick. We even have to bargain for safety equipment. People are running around today comparing private and public sector employment just don’t get it or have a clue what they are talking about. It’s no picnic working for a municipality like Philly. The government is legendarily corrupt and inefficient yet blames its employees for its problems. While the city contemplates furloughing Police Officers and Firefighters for example, the Streets Department has 50 Recycling Inspectors who go through peoples trash in order to make sure they are recycling properly.
Taking all that into consideration, our Paramedics decided a few years ago that they were fed up. In one of our contracts, they were awarded the right to transfer and become Firefighters. The city essentially denied them their right to do so citing Paramedic shortages. (Shortages caused by the terrible working conditions our medics endure). In any event it was established that even though medics get some very limited firefighting training at the academy when the come on the job, they for all intents and purposes are not firefighters. They spend their entire shifts working in the ambulances and possess a different skill set than Firefighters.
The medics, disheartened after being denied the right to retrain, decided that if that was the case, then the city was bound under FEDERAL LAW to pay them as Paramedics, not Firefighters. Up to that time medics were being lumped in as Firefighters. The city was happy to treat them different ways when it was to their advantage. Sometimes they were treated as Firefighters for pay and benefit purposes, and some times they were treated as medics not entirely equal to Firefighters. Yet LOCAL 22 has always represented the medics.
So the medics did what any American would do under the circumstances. They took their issues to court. They sued the city and WON! The judged found that the city of Philadelphia was in fact violating the medics rights since they were not Firefighters per se, and ordered the city to compensate them for their back pay and wages. Much of it had to do with the medics schedule and their overtime pay.
The first thing the city did of course and as usual was to RETALIATE. They immediately changed the medics schedule. Instead of negotiating with Local 22 for an amicable settlement the thin-skinned Nutter administration decided to punish the fire department (AND LOCAL 22). Ironically the fire department has borne the brunt of fiscal cutbacks by the Nutter administration since taking office. Rolling brownouts and closed companies are the hallmark of the Nutter administrations public safety strategy. Now the Nutter administration has gone even further. It has won a legal decision that sought the removal of Philly Paramedics from their union, Local 22 IAFF. In effect they are trying to destroy the Firefighters Union by removing about 270 members.
This is a DEMOCRAT administration folks. Remember that the next time someone says that Democrats are for the working man. BULLSHIT! Now our medics have no representation and are having their lives disrupted even further. It is a disgrace for a party that claims labor as a cornerstone of their constituency to treat workers in this fashion. I am not a big time union guy by any stretch. I have plenty of issues with the labor movement in general. But the process by which cops, firefighters and medics negotiated in good faith for wages and benefits while continuing to provide essential services to the citizens who pay our salary’s is about as good as you are going to get. Yet this just shows how the little guy gets treated by an all-powerful and vengeful government.
I’m asking State Law Makers to Support Local 22 and the Firefighters and Paramedics who put their lives on the line everyday to help save lives. It’s also time for Conservative and Republican lawmakers alike to get behind our members. We are a natural constituency that have been ignored all too long by the Republican party. You can support collective bargaining for cops, firefighters and medics without supporting the left wing labor movement. There is a window of opportunity here. Don’t miss it.
Philly Firefighters and Medics are 14 months without a new contract as of this writing.