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 City of Manhattan Beach California - Letter from  the City Council Regarding Fire Negotiations 19 July 2022 ( news )

City of Manhattan Beach California - Letter from the City Council Regarding Fire Negotiations 19 July 2022 ( news )

City of Manhattan Beach , state California
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   Official Letter:
   Letter from the City Council Regarding Fire Negotiations
     ( PDF )
   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
   July 19 , 2022
   LETTER FROM THE CITY COUNCIL REGARDING FIRE NEGOTIATIONS
    
   To our concerned residents:
   We continue to be surprised by the tenor of the Fire Association’s communications regarding the fire negotiations and want to be sure we clarify much of the misunderstanding and ......incorrect allegations .
   The City Council has made numerous proposals in an effort to come to an equitable agreement only to be rejected by the Association:
   The City has made significant modifications from its opening proposal at the beginning of 2021 in an effort to move closer to an agreement . Additionally , for over 15 months of the negotiations , the Association has simply rejected 6 of the City’s 9 substantive proposals that remain at issue in our negotiations . That is why we find ourselves at an impasse . The next step in this process is a Factfinding Hearing scheduled for August 5 . Contrary to the Association’s assertion that the City is not willing to mediate , this is another opportunity for us to continue to work toward an acceptable contract . At that hearing , a neutral party will listen to both sides . Our hope is that this will move us closer to a fair and balanced agreement that addresses the excessive overtime , claims of firefighter fatigue , burnout and stress , provides increased management control , and maintains local fire services now and into the future .
   The safety of our community is not compromised:
   The City Council has not and will not discredit the exemplary services that our Fire Department provides . The City Council has not turned its back on the Fire Department . Positions in the Firefighters’ Association have been fully staffed since September 2021 , and all service continues to be provided at the level our community expects . However , the Association continues to falsely report there are unfilled vacancies .
   Under the City’s proposal , paramedic staffing is not only maintained , but the City has the ability to reassign existing employees from administrative assignments to emergency medical services , which could be made permanent by a future Council action . In combination with hiring professional employees in the fire prevention bureau , the proposal enhances fire services to the community . We are extremely concerned to see unfounded comments that our community’s safety is at stake . That is simply not true .
   The City has not proposed outsourcing to L . A . County Fire:
   The Association’s campaign displaying the “Keep our MBFD local” slogan on t - shirts , their website and social media platforms is misleading . In truth , there is absolutely no threat to keeping our Fire Department local . In fact , this hasn’t been discussed in over 3 years since the Council unanimously rejected the feasibility study to contract with L . A . County Fire in 2019 . The City Council is proposing changes as part of our labor negotiations process that will actually help keep our Fire Department local and sustainable into the future .
   The City has complete confidence in the management of the Fire Department:
   The City Council fully supports our Fire Chief , who has been with the City for over a year providing consistent and capable leadership . However , the Firefighters’ Association continues to communicate a message of “mismanagement” while rehashing concerns with management that occurred over 5 years ago . The misleading assertions are most obvious in the statements regarding the “5 Chiefs in 4 years” to support their message of “mismanagement . ” In fact , one of those chiefs was the Police Chief stepping in as Acting Fire Chief during a transition period . Another was an interim fire chief who was hired during the pandemic . And , a third was a Fire Captain acting as chief for two weeks , who was appointed as a courtesy to fill a gap . All of these were positions filled to support the Department while the City conducted a thorough search for a fire chief .
   In addition , and of particular concern to Council , the Association has personalized their campaign with damaging allegations about the City Manager and other current and former City employees . We invite the Association to bring forward , through the appropriate channels , any actual allegations of wrongdoing to be investigated , rather than continuing to perpetuate insinuations and rumors that have the potential to harm the individuals who are the subjects of this narrative . Without evidence or merit , these insinuations and rumors have crossed the line .
   The City’s proposal is a clear path to reduce overtime:
   The excessive overtime received by the Association has been going on for many years even when positions in the Association were fully staffed . While it is in the interest of the Association to distract residents from this fact , members of the Association have been the highest in the state in average ( per employee ) compensation above every city fire department since at least 2015 , and have been the top earners in the City for many years prior to that due to the overtime received . Although the Association continues to focus on overtime associated with unfilled vacancies , the reality is that overtime spent to fill in for vacancies is actually offset from the salary and benefit savings associated with such vacancies .
   The City’s proposals have consistently included several solutions that will address overtime , all of which were previously rejected by the Association . Simply put , the City’s proposals would give management the flexibility to address staffing . The first proposal is to have the ability to hire additional firefighters by eliminating the prescribed “maximum staffing” provision . Only last week , after a year and a half of stalled negotiations , has the Association made an offer that would allow the City to remove the prescribed staffing number . The City hopes this is a step in the right direction of reaching a fair and balanced agreement , but there are additional proposals in combination with the “constant staffing” provision that the City views as important in order to reduce overtime .
   The Firefighters’ Association has repeatedly stated they receive overtime for hours worked beyond their normal hours . This is not true . Just because a firefighter receives overtime does not mean they are working time over their regularly scheduled hours . For example , a firefighter can be on vacation for two shifts but work another shift in the same week and receive overtime . Similarly , two firefighters can work each other’s vacation shifts and receive overtime without working any additional hours . This is because vacation , holiday leave , and injury pay count as “hours worked” to qualify for overtime .
   One of the City’s proposals to reduce overtime addresses the current system in which every shift taken as leave is automatically backfilled with overtime by allowing shift trades ( two firefighters working for each other ) . This proposal allows employees to take the same amount of time off while reducing the payment of time and a half overtime when firefighters are not working any additional hours . This , in effect , limits the number of shifts that will be backfilled on an overtime basis . The City is also proposing to remove the ability to convert unused sick leave into vacation , which creates further backfill of overtime . The Association has not agreed to these simple provisions because it will reduce the amount of overtime pay they receive .
   Battalion Chief compensation is a separate discussion from the Manhattan Beach Firefighters’ Association ( MBFA ) negotiation:
   Instead of working with City leaders on a dignified compromise that actually addresses some of the City’s key proposals , the Firefighters’ Association remains more interested in negotiating the compensation of the Battalion Chief positions . The Association has further claimed that the City did not fill Battalion Chief vacancies , which in turn created additional overtime . It’s important to note during this time , although there were several internal candidates on the list offered the position , none of them would accept the promotion in the over 2 years they were eligible . During this time , the Association agreed via a formal side letter to serve as acting Battalion Chiefs , receiving the same level of compensation they had requested . This agreement was in place from May 2021 through December 2021 . Because of this agreement , those employees serving in an acting capacity each made an average of $403 , 290 in 2021 , including an average of $190 , 634 per person in overtime . While the City appreciates their efforts during this time , the Association entered into this agreement because it was beneficial for them to do so . If they had not entered into this agreement , the City would have found other options to staff the Battalion Chiefs during injury leaves and to fill vacancies .
   The City Council made changes to the Fire Management ( Battalion Chief ) contract , anticipating that it would make commensurate changes to the MBFA contract , which would keep the promotional path in place . However , the City altered its course through the negotiations process , making compromises and concessions when it was essentially negotiating against itself . The City has repeatedly told the Association that its goal is to complete the Fire negotiations before it returns to propose adjustments to the Fire Management contract , the association that represents the Battalion Chief . Unfortunately , forward progress has not been made in the MBFA negotiations to get to that point .
   The City Council is committed to public safety and a path forward in negotiations:
   The bottom line is that the Council fully supports the Fire Department and all its personnel , including the Fire Chief . The decisions of the entire City Council in relation to labor negotiations are not personal . The Council has unanimously directed every action related to the Fire negotiations since 2018 , and remains united on resolving these negotiations in a way that is more sustainable for the Fire Department .
   While the City Council remains disappointed with the Association’s lack of movement throughout the entire negotiations process , it still desires to mutually resolve these negotiations . The proposed structural changes to their employment agreement will accomplish the Council’s goals of reducing excessive overtime , staffing more efficiently , increasing staffing levels , and providing management more decision making and autonomy , while maintaining all firefighters as paramedics . Public safety continues to be our number one priority . These negotiations have been going on for far too long , and the City Council has had no choice but to enter into the final stages of the negotiation process .
   For more information on the fire negotiations and the City Council’s proposal , please visit
   www . manhattanbeach . gov/firenegotiations
    .
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