Contract Settlements

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

MAFF filed two successful grievances on behalf of a Van Buren Township Paid-On-Call (POC) Firefighter who was suspended twice. The first suspension was reversed and the other significantly reduced with back pay and benefits awarded.

SUSPENSION REVERSED

In the first case, MAFF fought a 3-day suspension as excessive discipline and won. The Firefighter was suspended Aug. 17, 2017 for failing to notify the Employer in a timely manner that he would not attend a June 2017 training session. The Union filed a grievance stating the discipline violated Article II of the Management Rights policy by being “excessive.” The Arbitrator agreed, partially granting the grievance and reducing the discipline to a written write-up.

Township POC Firefighters received an email from the Employer asking them to sign up for one of three training sessions. The Firefighter in question forgot and failed to respond by the last training session on June 24, 2017. Once it was brought to his attention, he responded July 19 he was unable to attend due to “working and prior family obligations.”

CONTRACT

Now when an Employee responds to a tone out, they will receive a $4 per hour increase in pay during that period, “to encourage a greater response by the Paid-on-Call Firefighters,” said MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Joe O'Connor. “In order to fill shifts, they decided to let Paid-on-Call and Auxiliary work beyond the 1,560 hours. Once they go beyond that, they’re considered a full time equivalent and the Employer has to offer them healthcare. If there are open shifts, they’re allowing them to work it regardless of the number of hours they’ve got on the books. The Employer used to require a POC to reside in the city, they now need to live within 5 miles of the city limits. The hiring pool is only so big when you’re in the city limits. They want bodies to respond - that’s why it was expanded to the 5 mile radius." While new hire part-timers have minimum 10 shifts per quarter requirements, O’Connor said, “If they don’t have flexibility to work shifts, you can’t require them to take vacation time or personal time to fulfill that obligation with Novi. These guys all have full time jobs … Paid-on-Call means they’ll respond when they can and the Employer was trying to make it mandatory. You can’t do that. The compromise is anybody hired after (July 1, 2017), if you can’t do it we are not going to hire you.”

Contract Duration: 3-year agreement, ratified July 23, 2017, and effective 7-1-17 to 6-30-20.
Wage Increases:
•    2.5% wage increase upon contract ratification.
•    2.5% effective July 1, 2018.
•    2.5% effective July 1, 2019.
*New hire bonuses, which were eliminated in the prior contract, were reinstated. New hires will receive a $300 Certification Stipend for obtaining Firefighter 1, Firefighter 2 and EMT certifications and serving 12 month probationary period.

Fringe Benefits:
•    Each Employee will receive $100,000 in accidental death and dismemberment insurance.
•    POC or Auxiliary Firefighters responding to a scene, on standby or working a shift on a declared Holiday will be paid double time of their regular hourly pay.
•    Tuition reimbursement of $1,000 per year will be available, however if the Employee leaves the City within two years of tuition being reimbursed by the City, that Employee must reimburse some or all of the tuition. If the Employee leaves within one year of reimbursement, they must refund 100%. If they depart between 13 months and 23 months, they must repay a prorated amount based on 1/12th of the cost.

Tone-Outs: When an Employee responds to a tone out, they will receive an additional $4 per hour for hours worked during that tone out.

CONTRACT

“They’ll receive a total of 9 percent raise over 3 years ... for both full-time and paid-on-call. The last contract was the first we negotiated. They were so underpaid that they got monster raises,” said Jerald James, MAFF Labor Relations Specialist. “Three percent is significant for a wage increase. It kind of stabilized them for what we got particularly for how far behind they were from their peers. The Employer spent several thousand dollars on brand new fitness equipment for the group. The Employer opted to purchase the equipment through a grant and created a weight room in the fire house. Paid-on-call will get five additional points over and above the general public on the (hiring) tests (for full-time employment).”

“The group is happy with the wage increase, and we recognize that we still have some work to do. We look to build on the 9 percent and bring the gap between ranks closer together,” said Scott Basar, local union President. “We felt that buying the weight equipment was a cost savings to the department that could help us in future. Once the equipment is paid off, it’s here as opposed to $20 or 30 a month per guy for the gym. It’s about $2,000 a year (in gym costs). Having the equipment in the station is more beneficial for us than attending the gym. It’s time saving ... We’re here with the equipment, we’re here with trucks. (Paid-on-call) get automatic five points (on hiring tests) and you also get points based on (public safety) college degrees. Every little bit helps. The last hiring process the guys beat each other by one and two points. Prior to that, there was a guy who missed all together by a half point.”

Contract Duration: 3-year agreement ratified Feb. 14, 2017 effective 1-1-17 to 12-31-19.

Wage Increases:
3% increase effective Jan. 1, 2016.
3% increase effective Jan. 1, 2017.
3% increase effective Jan. 1, 2018.

CONTRACT

“They were pleased. It’s pretty good money,” said Labor Relations Specialist Jim Steffes. “They narrowed down the days they declare availability. They used to be responsible for all calls even when they were at work for their other job so that counted against them. Now they declare what (12-hour) shift they’re available to respond to tones. And if they miss one run during the week, weekend runs will count as makeups. It will make it a lot easier for them to obtain their bonuses.”

“It gives them more flexibility to get rest and spend time with their family and not have to make calls,” said local union President Anthony Baxter of the new run schedule. “It gives them more of a turnaround in the times when they’re supposed to be there.”

Contract Duration: 5-year agreement effective 1-1-17 to 12-31-21.

CONTRACT

“They went from having stipends for command officers to having hourly rates,” said Jim Steffes, MAFF Labor Relations Specialist. “Now it applies to everything they do - training, whatever function the fire department calls them in for. They’ll make more money. They received retro pay increases back to July 1, 2016. We also added two holidays paid at time and half - MLK day and the day after Thanksgiving.”

Contract Duration: 4-year agreement effective 7-1-16 to 6-30-20.
Wage Increases:
2% increase effective July 1, 2016.
2% increase effective July 1, 2017.
1.5% increase effective July 1, 2018.
Wage reopener effective July 1, 2019.

  • Command Officers, Captains and Battalion Chiefs were paid the same as fire fighters, but received annual stipends of $900 for Lieutenants; $1,000 for Captains; and $1,100 for Battalion Chief. Now they receive an hourly rate increase which applies to all hours worked, regardless if it’s training or response, which increases their overall compensation.

Fringe Benefits: Added two Holidays, MLK Day and the day after Thanksgiving, which are paid at a rate of time and a half. This brings employees up to 12 paid Holidays per year if they are called to respond.
Bargaining Team: MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Jim Steffes, local union President Phil Howell, Cody Revolt and Tony Lachcik.