Monday, November 18, 2013

OFPD Board of Trustees announces new union contract that offers taxpayers significant longterm savings

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OFPD announces new contract with firefighters that cuts costs and reduces expenditures

Orland Fire Protection District — The Orland Fire Protection District is proud to announce the renewal of its contract with the firefighters union, holding the line on pay raises to under 3 percent each year over the next three years and significantly reducing longterm costs.

The new three-year contract, which takes affect immediately, projects a reduction of ranking officers through attrition and their replacement by firefighters, and savings in healthcare, overtime and tougher requirements for drug testing and safety.

Members of the Orland Fire Protection Board said the new contract, which does not require board action because it was agreed to as a result of binding arbitration, would increase the number of lower-paid firefighters by reducing the number of higher paid ranking officers including lieutenants and engineers.

“This single change could save the taxpayers as much as $1 million a year by putting more firefighters on the force and less higher paid officers,” explained Orland Fire Trustee Chris Evoy, who noted the change will come through attrition over the life of the contract. The number of fire lieutenants, for example, will be reduced from 33 to 24, a savings of about $300,000 a year when fully implemented.

Additional savings will come by shifting the responsibility for overtime to senior management, a move OFPD Trustees said they hope will cut overtime expenditures by 50 percent.

“We want to thank the union leadership and negotiating team from Local 2754 for agreeing to these terms that will help ease the pressure on the budget and help the district achieve its goals of reigning in excessive spending,” Evoy added.

“The new contract will help the district save money and reduce expenditures by allowing a tougher management of overtime, shifting responsibility to battalion chiefs to better plan personnel schedules.”

In the past overtime needs were often slotted using higher paid ranking firefighters in ranking positions. Under the new plan, lower paid firefighters will get the majority of the overtime assignments when needed.

“We anticipate that this will be a very large savings to the taxpayers,” Evoy said congratulating his colleagues on the board including President Jim Hickey, and Trustees Blair Rhode, John Brudnak and Jayne Schirmacher.

Other concessions include requiring union members to increase their contributions, through payroll deductions, for healthcare benefits, and to adhere to a tougher and more stringent Drug Policy, lowering the tolerance level from .08 (which is the highest in the state) to .02 (which is the lowest in the state).

Employee contributions will increase from 7 percent to 9 percent in 2014 and 11 percent in 2015. And, he said, Kelly Days (other paid leave days) will be required to be scheduled and will not be permitted to be converted to sick days when not used.

“We think this reflects the best interests of the residents and the taxpayers,” Rhode said. “I know the board would like to express their gratitude to the leadership of the Local 2754 Union for their support in helping to achieve the district’s budget goals.”

Hickey added, “The mandate of the new board has been to maintain services while reducing the burden on taxpayers and I and the board have been working hard to balance both. We have saved many millions of dollars over the past few years that had we not acted, costs would have skyrocketed. This new contract is very favorable to the taxpayers and we’re proud that it achieves so much with their interests in mind."

The contract went to binding arbitration as a result of the union rejecting board offers. The arbitrator’s decision is final and does not need to be ratified by the board of trustees, Evoy explained. The contract is retroactive through Jan. 1, 2013.

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