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I write and speak often about the important role of labor/management relations in the success of fire departments and the fire service in general. Everything the fire department (and the fire service in general) wants to do is impacted by the ability of labor and management to plan together, resolve problems together, jointly address service delivery and support issues that are geared to maintaining the safety of the community and the members of the department, and use their individual and collective influence for the betterment of the fire service.
In systems where this works effectively, it is truly a beautiful and powerful thing to watch. But in systems where these relationships are dysfunctional, we continually call air strikes in on ourselves. The fire service has more than enough political enemies and challenges right now to keep us busy; we simply don’t need to spend our valuable time and energy constantly fighting with each other.
A friend, Bryan Jeffries, recently finished a book titled Fire Service Labor Management Relations: A Practitioner’s Guide. There are only a few books on the market that address fire service labor/management relations specifically, and this is now one of them. It’s worth a read and you can find out where to obtain it by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of what the fire service achieves at the national, state and local levels of government is impacted significantly by politics. Whether it is an infrastructure need like a communications system, a critical benefit like the PSOB program or realizing the importance of functional labor/management relations, they all have politics at their base and it is political competence that often dictates overall organizational effectiveness.
These three examples may not be found in our fire service headlines, but they are important and we should be aware of their existence.