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  1. #1
    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Default CT State Bill Would Ban Firefighter Restriction

    Bill Would Ban Firefighter Restriction
    November 14, 2003
    By MARYELLEN FILLO, Courant Staff Writer

    Convinced that the legislature needs to step in to protect public safety and promote volunteerism in the state, a Branford senator is proposing legislation that would bar municipalities from using contract provisions or conditions of employment as ways to prohibit paid firefighters from serving as volunteers in other communities.

    Reacting to such a restriction included in a recent Hartford firefighters' contract, Republican William A. Aniskovich said communities should not be allowed to limit how or where their paid firefighters volunteer, claiming it is discriminatory and a threat to volunteer departments.

    "Government ought to be doing as much as possible to promote volunteerism," Aniskovich said Thursday. "Having volunteers in medical services or fire departments is a matter of safety in many communities that depend on a volunteer pool. By limiting who can volunteer, you are jeopardizing safety," he said.

    The restriction also could force communities to establish paid departments, he said.

    People in several small towns in the Hartford area were angered earlier this year when a contract between the city of Hartford and the Hartford Fire Fighters Association included a provision that forbids full-time firefighters to be on active duty and combat fires as volunteers elsewhere.

    Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teale Sr. had said he was concerned that injuries or illness sustained by a firefighter in a volunteer capacity could be costly to the Hartford department in manpower and disability costs. The provision is scheduled to take effect June 30, 2008.

    To small volunteer departments, particularly those close to Hartford, the provision would mean losing key volunteers who are employed by Hartford and would have to quit. It could also lead to the demise of one of the diminishing resources volunteer departments use to staff their departments.

    "I'm very happy to hear that the state is stepping in," said Newington Fire Chief James Trommer, whose department roster includes several Hartford firefighters.

    "The issue goes beyond staffing volunteer departments," he said. "I don't think people should be told what to do as far as where they can or can't volunteer. Why is volunteering for a fire department any different than playing softball?

    "And as far as any disability costs, if one of our volunteers is hurt, we cover them."

    Hartford fire union leaders, however, said state intervention would be misguided and that other departments have enacted similar provisions with little, if any, controversy.

    "I really don't know what the stir is now over this," said union President Tom DiScipio. DiScipio argued that professional firefighters take greater than normal risks when they work on volunteer departments, and that limiting where they exercise their skills helps assure their safety.

    "There is a different standard for paid departments," he said. "And I think attempts to legislate contract provisions is a slap in the face to unions."
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  2. #2
    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    "There is a different standard for paid departments," he said. "And I think attempts to legislate contract provisions is a slap in the face to unions."

    LOL...Ok, if the consistent line has been that the contract provision was requested by the City of Hartford and merely agreed to by the union...I'd think this is a slap in the face of the City and not the Union that the provision is risking being stripped by the State.

    That said, the CT General Assembly doesn't even convene again for another four months so this legislator's rantings are just pure hyperbole at this point.

    Plenty of time for people on both sides of this to continue sticking their feet into their mouths.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Duffman's Avatar
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    LOL...Ok, if the consistent line has been that the contract provision was requested by the City of Hartford and merely agreed to by the union...I'd think this is a slap in the face of the City and not the Union that the provision is risking being stripped by the State.
    It is not just the consistent line, it is the truth.

    It is a slap in the face of the city, but it is not the union's place comment on behalf of the city.

    Let's see if any of the anti-"big government" folks will come out against this one.
    Last edited by Duffman; 11-14-2003 at 01:04 PM.
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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    I find it interesting that the proposed legislation actually comes a State Senator representing a suburb of New Haven as opposed to a suburb of Hartford.
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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    Let's see if any of the anti-"big government" folks will come out against this one.

    Interesting point, however most of the anti-"big government" crowd I suspect don't support collective bargaining to begin with, and would view restrictions on it's scope as limiting it and thus making it smaller.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Duffman's Avatar
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    That's just it Dal, that group preaches smaller government, until they want something their way.
    "We shouldn't be opening firehouses in Baghdad and closing them in New York City."

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    Forum Member MIKEYLIKESIT's Avatar
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    Default Yo Brother Duff

    I couldn't have said it any better myself. The good Legislator is definately over- stepping his authority on this one.

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    My question is this:
    I thought the IAFF was against this also? That is our unions stance on volunteering.

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    Forum Member kghemtp's Avatar
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    But aren't we the people that make up these unions? Many live outside the communities they work for, and because of that pay taxes & use town services. If we're volunteering or paid on call in our hometowns, aren't we saving ourselves the extra cost of hiring full time? In no way does that change full time departments around us, so I can't see where the big complaint comes. Injury from volunteering? I don't buy that for a second, unless the department uses EVERY health risk prevention tactic like complete tobacco free policies too. But how can one think firefighters will NOT be injured in other off-duty activities that could take them off the job? It sounds to me like unions use the excuse of "injury" when they really just want more union jobs. Don't get me wrong, I am pro-union and think the full time fire service SHOULD grow in the places that need it, but those communities that still function well with call & volunteer departments should be allowed to do so without limitations from the union.
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    MembersZone Subscriber InAndUp's Avatar
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    It sounds to me like unions use the excuse of "injury" when they really just want more union jobs.

    Ummm, injury is not an excuse. It's real.

    As I've stated before, at no time do we ever make plans at union meeting to overthrow neighboring volunteer communities. We're not interested. A union strives to protect wages and benefits of its members. This is our job. We need to to protect that.

    In another town near me, they do not have a no-volunteering clause. I would say about 2% of their members are also volunteers. In contract negotiations, the town proposed a 20% decrease in benefits and no wage increases. When the union rejected it, the mayor made no counter offers. He did offer to bring in volunteers if they didn't want to accept it. He made mention that he sees blue lights and volunteer plates on cars in the parking lot. He figured if they do it for free, then doing it without a pay increase should be fine too. His words, not mine. What a jack*****! While its easy to say "He'll never do that", politicians will do anything that will save their election.

    There are numerous logical reasons for the clause. My dept. has it, as well as a mndatory wellness program, and a no smoking clause. This makes our legitimate compensation claims much stronger.

    In the media around Hartford, the volunteer chiefs who are complaining all say that there won't be a problem trying to get a claim through if a member volunteers. They're wrong, I've seen it many times. Who are they to tell us how it will work? They have no idea.

    Some points to remember...

    - The City of Hartford proposed this NOT the union.

    - The only people complaining are volunteers. The Hartford paper and the news have not showed one career firefighter who is complaining about this.

    - The volunteer chiefs all state that it's not about volunteering, but that a guy shouldn't be told what they can and can't do off duty. It's nice to know they're looking out for us. But if I call them up and ask them to speak out in the media for us on increasing manning and getting the mold count in the firehouse to a safe level, do you think they would? Nope, they'll probably say that task belongs to the union.

    - I am amazed that these volunteer chiefs and one or two fame-hungry politicians in the area all think they have the right to stick their noses into a legal agreement between the city and the union.

    - The Hartford contract passed easily when voted by the membership. What does that tell you?

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    As stated before the membership agreed, I work near hartford and am a member of IAFF. FYI we have a guy( married+kids) in our local who also volunteers, he had a heart condition and neither town would accept responsibility for it. Both departments were saying the cause /responsibilty was the others. If he was just volunteering or just paid he would be covered. Think about it!!

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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Originally posted by InAndUp
    - The only people complaining are volunteers. The Hartford paper and the news have not showed one career firefighter who is complaining about this.
    Are you saying you want me to call the paper and give them some names? I know Hartford firefighters, including my best friend, who are complaining about this. Some are complaining because they like to volunteer in their 100% volunteer towns, others are complaining because they can't work part time FF jobs at industrial plants.

    Just because it is not in the paper, does not mean it doesn't exist.

    And yes, my friend did vote in favor of the contract but voted yes to stop people from being laid-off...from what I hear, there are a lot of guys who did the same thing.
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    MembersZone Subscriber InAndUp's Avatar
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    I would love to hear from some of these guys, but they're not speaking up at Union meetings. All of their complaining must be done inside their volunteer houses.

    I have no problem whatsoever with volunteer FF's. Before I got on, I was one for many years. BUT...if it weakens the ability for a union to secure better wages and benefits (the reason we work), then it is a problem.

    As a union official, I know first hand that it weakens
    our ability to obtain better wages and benefits. This is our job. My mortgage gets paid from it, my truck gets paid by it, and I feed my family by it. In the same fashion that you probably like to get raises and maintain good healthcare benefits at your job, so do we.

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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Originally posted by InAndUp
    All of their complaining must be done inside their volunteer houses.
    Probably so, but I hope you see I was just making the point that just because it isn't reported in the paper doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
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    MembersZone Subscriber InAndUp's Avatar
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    I hear ya. I have had a problem with the way the Courant has handled this story from the start. In their political agenda, they usually go out of their way to make the unions look bad. They must have learned that from our "Governor".

    At any rate, they have never accurately represented the union in their reporting, and of the many, many editorial letters sent in supporting this, I believe they only printed one.

    I laugh at their articles. 10 paragraphs quoting everybody and their sister, then one quote from the union at the end. Not fair coverage at all!

    Anyhoo, enough of that. I saw that ladder truck you guys have over there in EW. Damn! That's a hell of truck! Have fun with it!

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    IACOJ Agitator Adze39's Avatar
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    Originally posted by InAndUp
    Anyhoo, enough of that. I saw that ladder truck you guys have over there in EW. Damn! That's a hell of truck! Have fun with it!
    Thanks. We are still trying to figure out what they spent all the money on...must have been all the equipment. It's had a bunch of problems, most of which have been fixed, but it is a nice rig.
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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    he had a heart condition and neither town would accept responsibility for it. Both departments were saying the cause /responsibilty was the others. If he was just volunteering or just paid he would be covered.

    Gee, insurance companies and lawyers trying to deny claims! Let's face it -- the benefits were due, just a matter of the two deciding how to apportion it since they're granted under seperate statutes. Same thing as why insurance companies sue each other sometimes to figure out just how much each is responsible for.

    I know from other stuff CIRMA's pulled, I won't sign Worker's Comp forms from my town in the hospital. Their default paperwork tries to get you to accept the lower production-wage benefit even for incident & training related injuries. Gotta watch what your signing.

    The General Assembly could, relatively easily, fix the worker's comp problem by apportioning the liability based on years-of-service -- 30 years volunteer, 20 years career volunteer town gets 3/5 of the liability, career 2/5. Dealing with Disability plans could be more complicated, although you really wouldn't hear an objection from me about forcing a similiar proportionment for presumptive claims...small town Selectmen and Town Managers though might squawk.

    At the same time, I'd want the GA to fix the major flaw of basing volunteer presumptive heart & hypertension and non training/non incident (i.e. fell off ladder while changing a light bulb in the station) on the antiquated "average production wage" and instead use actual salary like line-of-duty injuries get. Some baseline, like the APW although there must be a better one since we don't do a lot of manufacturing anymore in this state, should be left to cover high school & college students, retirees, etc who don't have a significant salary normally.

    Matt
    Last edited by Dalmatian90; 11-16-2003 at 06:35 PM.

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    55 Years & Still Rolling hwoods's Avatar
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    Cool Hi, I'm The Devil's Advocate.......

    And, my duty is to try to show the other side of the picture. What if a city with a paid department, represented by an IAFF local, went off to negotiate a contract that contained a clause that somehow encouraged Volunteering. Would that fly? I think not. Nor would one that prohibited "side" jobs, period. In the major metro areas, moonlighting as a liquor store clerk or a pizza delivery driver is likely to cause a Firefighter to be off duty, injured, as a result of that PT job. No, to me, none of those discussing this matter have told it like it is. The International Association of Firefighters does not want it's members serving as Volunteer Firefighters off the job. Period. And that is the right of an organization, to make rules governing the conduct of it's members. Any IAFF member who wishes to Volunteer should quit the Union. I did. End of Story.
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    The International Association of Firefighters does not want it's members serving as Volunteer Firefighters off the job. Period.
    I really do try not to reply/post to these threads because all they are is a puddle of gasoline looking for an ignition source. That quote I posted, however, is the exception to my rule...but I am not going to slam anyone, just pose a question of my own and hope to get a satisfying/fullfilling answer.

    What makes a union, any union, try to think they can regulate what their members can and can not do off-duty? I am sorry, but when I am at work, doing what I am paid to do...then you can tell me what I can and can not do. When I am at home, in my free time, I do not think anyone (employer, union, etc) has any right to tell me what I can and can not do (police laws ARE the exception to that rule).

    Sure, someone will say that if you don't like it, quit the union. But, how many people will really be able to do that and keep their jobs or their pensions since most pension plans are administered by the union.

    Please do not slam or flame me, I tried (and think I succeeded) to keep this very much to my point and not put down the unions or the volunteers. I simply asked a question and hope I get a sensible answer (it is in the bylaws is not a sensible answer)

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    Senior Member Dalmatian90's Avatar
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    What makes a union, any union, try to think they can regulate what their members can and can not do off-duty? I am sorry, but when I am at work, doing what I am paid to do...then you can tell me what I can and can not do.

    1) You voluntarily join the union, so you accept their rules. There are benefits associated with the costs of membership.

    2) I don't agree with union shops -- if someone doesn't want a restriction from union membership, then they should be free to chose to opt out, paying collective bargaining fees if appropriate.

    3) In the PG County area, it's the Union enforcing a Union rule that's the issue in trying to stop Union members volunteering. That's not the case in Hartford, where it's the City making a rule to prohibit it's employees from volunteering.

    I'm not sure of the exact situation in PG, I know it's the case in some of the disputes from Canada, where you have to be a IAFF member at your career department to keep the job. Lose IAFF membership over volunteering, lose your career. That I don't agree with, but more for being a union shop than the Union enforcing it's internal policies. It's their right to enforce them, it should be your right to say I don't want to be a member.

    I think it's perfectly acceptable to question how much the City's decision to ask for the ban was influenced by the Union, but at the end of the day it is the City of Hartford that has responsibility for this. Whether someone wants to opt out or could opt out from the Union really doesn't matter, it's not the Union dictating here.

    4) Municipalities in my state certainly can place reasonable restrictions on employees. Many have residency requirements, some Police departments even prohibit being volunteer firefighters. So the City has the legal right to do this. In Connecticut it extends to allowing municipalities ban off-duty smoking.

    The same principle the bans off-duty smoking is the same one in effect here -- the City claims volunteering off-duty increases your likelyhood of either an injury that you'll masquerade as an on-duty career injury, or of receiving a presumptive disability (like lung cancer from smoking does).

    The place to take this up isn't with the Union, but with the General Assembly that can:
    1) Do nothing
    2) Prohibit to practice of prohibiting volunteering with:
    2a) Along with a formula apportioning responsibility for presumptive benefits & other costs between jurisdictions
    2b) Indeminfying by the State of such costs or a portion thereof
    2c) Telling the jurisdictions to fight it out themselves
    2d) Telling the career jurisdiction they're responsible and go pound sand if they don't like it.

    5) Getting back to the Union, like others have said here and elsewhere, it's 1% of the issues & 1% of the people that generate 99% of the noise. By and large I haven't seen the IAFF or it's locals make a vociferous stand except when IAFF members are volunteering in other IAFF locals jurisdictions -- and having Union members working for non-union rates in another Unionized shop will raise a big stink no matter if it's the Firefighters, Carpenters, Masons, Pipefitters, or whoever. They may quietly discourage it, but they don't push hard except where locals are or could be established.

    6) And on a somewhat unrelated note, except in rare circumstances of bad timing, no volunteer should respond back into his career jurisdiction. Beyond being similiar to situation 5 above, it raises many legal issues -- without realizing/knowing your back in your career city, the career city *is* liable to pay you overtime and very much potentially liable for any injuries you receive. You're doing the same work, for the same employer. Most private employers, even non-unionized, prohibit employees from moon-lighting for other companies back at the jobsite for this and similiar reasons. You might get caught, say in the Engine already on the road and get a mutual aid call...fine. Just don't make it a practice of responding from home/station.

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