Contract Settlements

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

Port Huron Township Fire Fighters were starting to wonder why they were paying a union dues to represent them when they had to write their own contract and pay additional fees for grievance representation. Previously represented by the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) for well over a decade, the full-time staff voted in March to join MAFF.

“From what they indicated to me they didn’t feel properly represented and they did not get a lot of support from their prior group,” said MAFF Labor Relations Specialist Jerald James. “They wrote their own contract and negotiated their own contract. They were essentially on their own for all intents and purposes.”

“I’ve never heard of (a situation like) that before,” James said. “Maybe because it’s such a small group, that’s the only thing I can surmise as to why they didn’t get more representation.”

By Jennifer Gomori, MAFF Editor

With possibly the lowest pay in the state and negative changes in staffing anticipated, Clay Township Fire Fighters decided it was time to be represented by a union. Their concerns, ranging from wages and overtime to scheduling of shifts, caused the group to vote in January to join MAFF.

“There’s a multitude of issues they were having that prompted them to say they needed union representation,” said Jerald James, MAFF Labor Relations Specialist. “They were not organized before. This is their first union.”

“We went with MAFF because they also represent part-time employees and the IAFF (International Association of Fire Fighters) doesn’t do that because they don’t really want any part-time Fire Fighters, they want only full time,” said Mike Olderman, local union representative. “We just have been treated horrible by the township and they would not negotiate. It doesn’t matter if you’re a paramedic with 20 years experience or a basic Fire Fighter, you get paid the same hourly rate. It’s just so unfair. We’re hoping to negotiate a fair contract.”

The primarily paid-on-call (POC) department has seven full-time Fire Fighters, which have been paid for through a Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) Grant. However, that grant is expected to run out in October. “We’re kind of wrangling over that right now,” James said regarding contract negotiations. “According to the Employer, it doesn’t sound like they’ll be able to financially sustain the full-timers. They’ve already had their (grant) extensions. They won’t be able to get another SAFER Grant. They just indicated those 7 full-time positions in October will probably be vacated. I’m assuming they’ll transfer into paid-on-call as they are hiring more paid-on-call.”

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.