Hawaii Battalion Chiefs Fight For OT

HONOLULU --

Some of the Honolulu Fire Department's battalion chiefs are in a dispute with the city over potential overtime that could be worth nearly $700,000.

The chiefs said they want to substitute for each other when they are on leave, giving them overtime like lower-ranking firefighters do now.

Whenever more than one fire company is sent to an emergency, a battalion chief oversees all the firefighters at the scene.

That includes situations from fires to rescues.

HFD has 13 battalion chiefs who filed a civil service complaint, saying they are entitled to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of "lost overtime opportunities."

Hiram Keliipio, a 28-year HFD veteran, is one of them.

"This was never an issue of compensation and money. This has always been for us an issue of safety and morale," he said.

The chiefs and their lawyer argued they are entitled to participate in a program that rank-and-file firefighters allowing have, allowing them to substitute for fellow chiefs who are on leave, getting overtime to do so. Right now, captains serve as acting battalion chiefs, getting higher pay to substitute.

"The law provides that the battalion chiefs should get all the benefits that are given to the rank-and-file," attorney Margery Bronster said.

The head of the firefighters' union opposes their efforts.

"This is just a really bad deal for a number of reasons," Hawaii Firefighters Association President Bobby Lee said. "There's no question that they're paid handsomely for what they do."

Lee said battalion chiefs are already paid anywhere from $70,000 to $101,000 a year in base pay. Giving them more overtime opportunities would not be fair to the lower-paid rank-and-file firefighters, he said.

"They become the highest-paid employees in the city, making more than the fire chief and opportunities that could very well could have them making more than the mayor," Lee said.

No matter how the city's Civil Service Commission decides the firefighters' case, the dispute will probably end up in court, KITV reported.

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