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    Forum Member DeputyChiefGonzo's Avatar
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    Default Grievance filed.. what say you?

    http://www.gazettenet.com/2011/06/07...ge-duty-unfair

    Northampton firefighters claim salvage duty is unfair
    By DAN CROWLEY
    Staff Writer
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    Tuesday, June 7, 2011
    NORTHAMPTON - Work to salvage an elderly man's belongings after his roof collapsed under snow this winter is the subject of an unfair labor practice complaint filed by the Northampton firefighters union.

    While the union says such work falls outside their job description, city officials liken it to salvaging the possessions of city residents whose homes are ravaged by fire or flooding, which firefighters do regularly.

    "I don't see it as any different," Mayor Clare Higgins said. "This is a salvage operation. This is an elderly gentleman in desperate need of help from the city."

    Meantime, the city faces another complaint filed by the International Association of Firefighters Local 108 over the transfer of money in April from the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services fund to cover overtime expenses in the department, which the City Council approved. The money in that fund is generated by ambulance revenues.

    The latter grievance was denied by Fire Chief Brian P. Duggan in May and is now before Glenda Stoddard, the city's human resources director. Depending on how Stoddard responds, the matter could move to arbitration.

    The complaints come as the mayor negotiates a new contract with the firefighters union, which is the only union not to opt into a new health insurance plan for the next fiscal year. The union is working under a contract that expired a year ago.

    "There's often more grievances when we're in the middle of negotiations," said Higgins, when asked whether the two complaints might be driven by difficult labor talks.



    Laurel Park operation

    The roof of John Masloski's red, two-story home in Laurel Park caved in under the weight of snow in February and city officials later ordered the house demolished for safety reasons. Masloski, 77, lives in Florence and his Laurel Park home, while uninhabited for years, contained many of his belongings.

    Duggan dispatched a crew of four firefighters to the scene Feb. 24. The union says the firefighters were "ordered" by the city to help remove personal items from Masloski's small house and put them into a U-Haul truck. They say they shouldn't be doing that work, according to a complaint filed with the state Division of Labor Relations.

    Northampton Firefighter Michael Hatch, president of IAFF, Local 108, could not be reached for comment, but the union's complaint states the city "changed the job duties" without providing notice to the union or an opportunity to negotiate, "and thereby bargained in bad faith." Timothy Belcher, an attorney representing the union in the labor complaint, could not be reached Monday for comment.

    The demolition project cost Northampton approximately $15,000 as Masloski did not have homeowner's insurance or the financial means to pay for the work. At the time, Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck said the city would try to save many of Masloski's possessions, which included old tools, a hand-carved cigar store Indian, an antique Dr. Pepper sign and an old record player. The salvaged items also included an unused Whirlpool washing machine that Masloski won in a contest years ago.

    "The building commissioner asked if an engine company could assist, which I assigned," Duggan said. "They were there for the demo and could be pulled away" in an emergency.

    Duggan said he viewed the task as "protecting property and salvage," something firefighters do routinely.

    "The (firefighters union) sees it as a change in the fabric of what their job description and role is," he said. "The city's perspective is it's salvage of a person's property who really needed assistance. I share the view that this is a project of saving someone's property as we do with fire, flooding, etc."

    The City Council last Thursday transferred $2,500 into the city's Legal Services budget, funds Higgins said are directly related to defending the complaints filed by Local 108.

    EMS funds

    In a separate complaint, the firefighters union alleges the city wrongly used $60,000 from the Fire Department's EMS reserve or ambulance receipts fund to pay for an overtime deficit in the Fire Department. The union contends that money should be spent only for operating and maintaining the department's emergency medical services.

    The union points to an article in its contract, which states: "In order to successfully develop EMS within the Northampton Fire Department, the city and union agree that all (EMS) receipts and budgeted surplus will be transferred and held in an EMS Reserve Account." The union is requesting the city pay back the money immediately, its complaint states.

    Higgins said the city did not have the cash on hand to pay for Fire Department overtime, which is historically underfunded at approximately $90,000 but hits about $300,000 per year.

    Duggan said the Fire Department estimated it would take in $1.56 million in ambulance revenues this year, but that figure is expected to top $1.9 million.

    Higgins said it was a tough year financially and she had to use the money with little to no free cash or rainy-day funds on the city's books to pay for the Fire Department's overtime deficit.

    Duggan said tapping the EMS reserve fund means less cash will be available in the future to pay for EMS equipment and ambulances, however. He denied the union's grievance on several grounds.

    "It's something that clearly was not well received by my people, but it's a decision that was made and implemented," Duggan said. As for city councilors who approved the financial transfer, several said that EMS funds can be used for any lawful municipal purpose, including paying for Fire Department overtime.

    "I don't know what they would be complaining about this for," said Ward 7 City Councilor Eugene A. Tacy, who serves on the Finance Committee.

    Ward 5 City Councilor David A. Murphy, who serves on the Public Safety Committee said this: "I'm assuming they don't think it's going to be transferred and held forever, or reserved indefinitely."

    Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.
    The roof of John Masloski's red, two-story home in Laurel Park caved in under the weight of snow in February and city officials later ordered the house demolished for safety reasons. Masloski, 77, lives in Florence and his Laurel Park home, while uninhabited for years, contained many of his belongings.

    The demolition project cost Northampton approximately $15,000 as Masloski did not have homeowner's insurance or the financial means to pay for the work. At the time, Building Commissioner Louis Hasbrouck said the city would try to save many of Masloski's possessions, which included old tools, a hand-carved cigar store Indian, an antique Dr. Pepper sign and an old record player. The salvaged items also included an unused Whirlpool washing machine that Masloski won in a contest years ago.


    Click on the video link to this story.

    My humble opinion.... the only reason to enter this structture was to search for victims. As a command officer, the thought of putting someone into a house that was abandoned abandoned decades ago with a structural collapse that caused its demolition to look for "stuff" compromised the safety of the personnel of the Northhampton firefighters.

    PS: I know Chief Duggan. He used to be the Chief in the town of Northborough.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
    Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


  2. #2
    Forum Member nmfire's Avatar
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    I think they have every right to contest this, union or not. The fire department is not the citizen's private custodial service, a moving company, a trucking company, or stanley steamer. The mayor is an idiot. What makes this even more ludicrous, is this isn't even the guys home. It is his giant closet.
    Even the burger-flippers at McDonald's probably have some McWackers.

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    I don't know, the safety thing I agree with. I think most fire depts have to do crazy stuff like that. We've done everything from picking up trash on interstate to standing by a rich person's bonfire at a party til 0100 b/c counsel member made us. I think if the man would have asked the fire dept they wouldn't have as much a prob with it. Since the city made them, I think it became more of an issue, and rightfully so. But I do agree the city shouldn't MAKE them do that. Don't know if I explained my opinion on how I meant to

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    Forum Member nyckftbl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nmfire View Post
    I think they have every right to contest this, union or not. The fire department is not the citizen's private custodial service, a moving company, a trucking company, or stanley steamer. The mayor is an idiot. What makes this even more ludicrous, is this isn't even the guys home. It is his giant closet.
    this. .
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    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    I concur. Just like my department's policy on not pumping flooded basements. We will not subject our members to liability or injury. In the case of this however there was a clear and present danger of potential further collapse. I agree with the Union filing a grievance in order to prevent such action on administrations part in the future.

    Now waiting for the Pubic Hair to come on here and tell us all how we are wrong and the union is the anti-christ.
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    I'm not sure this could constitute as a grievance. I'm not going to fall into the trap of whether this was right or wrong since it would quickly degrade into a name calling thread.

    The only way for sure is to have the courts look it over and make a decision and hopefully both sides will agree to the decision.

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    Forum Member FWDbuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leeland View Post
    I'm not sure this could constitute as a grievance. I'm not going to fall into the trap of whether this was right or wrong since it would quickly degrade into a name calling thread.

    The only way for sure is to have the courts look it over and make a decision and hopefully both sides will agree to the decision.
    If anything it would certainly fall under an Unfair Labor Practice claim. (ULP.)
    "Loyalty Above all Else. Except Honor."

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    This little quote sticks out...

    "I don't see it as any different," Mayor Clare Higgins said. "This is a salvage operation. This is an elderly gentleman in desperate need of help from the city."


    This is not a salvage operation, this was misuse of resources. Salvage is an operation conducted by the FD to limit damage to property that may occur while in performance of mitigating the emergency. Such as the FD being called for smoke and find a haze and a fire hidden in the attic, walls, etc. Some time can be taken to protect property (in some cases) prior to causing damage to mitigate the emergency. Same thing as making water chutes etc to limit damage due to FD operations, THAT is salvage.

    What we have here is a misuse of resources, the FD was not there to mitigate an emergency, they were sent to recover property. Such a role should be left to a company which specializes in recovery/demolition, not the FD. Since this was caused by nature, such an issue is left up to an insurance provider, it is not the taxpayers' responsibility to incorporate their services for the private moving company of someone else.
    The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.

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    Wonder if there's a p*ssing contest between the mayor and fire department, and this is just his way of sticking it to them....

    If ... and that's a big if... there is any responsibility on the part of the town (doubtful, since it was private property that wasn't properly maintained) then the public works department, and not the fire department, would be the more appropriate group to have sent.

    This is in no way proper use of public resources anyway - this was an old man's storage depo, and he can hire someone out of pocket to clean up his mess. And if, as noted in the article, he can't afford it then the building should simply have been condemned and bulldozed. It is not the city's requirement to put employees into a dangerous structure to save the accumulated crap someone hasn't been arsed to deal with for the last however many years.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    I concur. Just like my department's policy on not pumping flooded basements. We will not subject our members to liability or injury. In the case of this however there was a clear and present danger of potential further collapse. I agree with the Union filing a grievance in order to prevent such action on administrations part in the future.

    Now waiting for the Pubic Hair to come on here and tell us all how we are wrong and the union is the anti-christ.
    Just had to say something about me, eh?

    Since you opened the door I'll kick it in....

    I know several VFDs including a couple of my own that have done things very similar to this.

    Very good public relations.

    I'm not going to say a thing about the damned union.

    P.S. I wouldn't have an issue if required to perform a task like this while on the clock at my fulltime gig. Again, excellent PR and another reason for the citizens to vote for the fire tax renewal every 10 years.

    Guess I'm old fashioned when I say if the boss tells you to do a job you do it and shut the hell up. If that's anti-union, well there ya go.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-08-2011 at 01:55 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    I know several VFDs including a couple of my own that have done things very similar to this.

    Very good public relations.
    It is. It's excellent public relations - but I think the issue at stake is that they were ordered to do it. Would have been more tactful if the mayor called the fire chief and said "we need some people to help out old man Masloski- can you find a few volunteers who will give him a hand?"

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    I agree on the safety issue, though the article didn't say one way or the other whether scene safety was addressed. At a minimum I'd hope a construction official had determined the scene was safe for temporary access.

    With respect to the tasking.. What if the roof had collapsed due to a fire? Would the salvage be an accepted part of our job then? What about other natural causes.. tornado..etc? What's the difference?

    To me it seems that the FD was called to the scene of a building collapse due to weather (snow) so it was an emergency scene. Property conservation is not beyond they're job description. Now, I think things are stretched when it includes "packing a U-Haul".. that's probably going too far.
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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    ...To me it seems that the FD was called to the scene of a building collapse due to weather (snow) so it was an emergency scene...
    The Chief was notified by a building inspector who was tasked with the demolition of the building. This was not a "911" call for a collapsed roof.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    Quote Originally Posted by LaFireEducator View Post
    Just had to say something about me, eh?

    Since you opened the door I'll kick it in....

    I know several VFDs including a couple of my own that have done things very similar to this.

    Very good public relations.

    I'm not going to say a thing about the damned union.

    P.S. I wouldn't have an issue if required to perform a task like this while on the clock at my fulltime gig. Again, excellent PR and another reason for the citizens to vote for the fire tax renewal every 10 years.

    Guess I'm old fashioned when I say if the boss tells you to do a job you do it and shut the hell up. If that's anti-union, well there ya go.
    Looking for attention again Bobby?

    Funny... you have no problem sending people into a collapsed abandoned $#!thole to recover someone's "stuff", yet you won't do the same if a persons home is on fire...

    Pathetic. Absolutely @#$%^&! pathetic.
    ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bones42 View Post
    The Chief was notified by a building inspector who was tasked with the demolition of the building. This was not a "911" call for a collapsed roof.
    Interesting. Certainly changes things. I retract my position.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
    Looking for attention again Bobby?

    Funny... you have no problem sending people into a collapsed abandoned $#!thole to recover someone's "stuff", yet you won't do the same if a persons home is on fire...

    Pathetic. Absolutely @#$%^&! pathetic.
    Fire is scary.

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    Quote Originally Posted by voyager9 View Post
    With respect to the tasking.. What if the roof had collapsed due to a fire? Would the salvage be an accepted part of our job then? What about other natural causes.. tornado..etc? What's the difference?

    Salvage isn't about recovering property after an incident. Salvage is about trying to protect property during an emergency response to limit damage. Salvage also is down on the incident priority list and should be done only if there is enough manpower and time to do so. So when asking if the roof collapsed due to fire, then there should "hopefully" be other priorities going on instead of worrying about salvage.

    What gets clouded is that there are insurance and restoration companies for a reason. It is not the responsibilty, nor job of the FD to be a property recovery entity, it is an emergency response agency. Protecting property is an aspect of the job by limiting the damage which fire creates, as well as damage that is inflicted to mitigate the emergency. Once the emergency is over, there is no reason for the FD to do anything more.
    The thoughts and opinions posted here are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the thoughts and or views of city or dept affiliation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FWDbuff View Post
    If anything it would certainly fall under an Unfair Labor Practice claim. (ULP.)
    Possibly. I would just like to see how it is handled legally.

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    A contract is a contract.

    That's the bottom line.
    I am now a past chief and the views, opinions, and comments are mine and mine alone. I do not speak for any department or in any official capacity. Although, they would be smart to listen to me.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DeputyChiefGonzo View Post
    Looking for attention again Bobby?

    Funny... you have no problem sending people into a collapsed abandoned $#!thole to recover someone's "stuff", yet you won't do the same if a persons home is on fire...

    Pathetic. Absolutely @#$%^&! pathetic.
    I have no idea what condition this structure was in. If there was a reasonable collapse hazard, no, they wouldn't make entry.

    The fact is I have been on VFDs that have assisted citizens recover possessions from damage structures that were still stable and safe. It not one of those situations did I feel threatened, and yes, in a couple of cases we did some shoring and stabilization of the structure before we began to remove the possessions, so it also performed the role of a training exercise.

    It's called public relations. It's called assisting community member in needs and it does provide benefits down the road in terms of funding votes and community support.

    The fire is an changing, unstable event. A damaged structure is static and can often be made stable. Two very different events.

    As fart as renegotiating the contract every time management wants to add additional duties, that's a bunch of crap. If they add roles and you don't like it, find and another job or shut the hell up and do what they tell you to do.

    As yes, I'm not pro-labor.
    Last edited by LaFireEducator; 06-08-2011 at 08:44 PM.
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