RE: editorial, "City Union Workers Watch Out"
Original post made
by anon, Another Pleasanton neighborhood,
on Sep 19, 2008
It is regretable that Pleasaton needs to reign in over-spending by creating a two tiered pay and benefit system -- however, consider why that has become necessary.
Firefighters work 10 regular days per month and most have the option to sign up for virtually unlimited overtime at time and one half pay. The employer (Pleasanton taxpayers here) supplies not only the "room and board" but generally pays for premium cable fees and internet access (to alleviate boredom), workout equipment (to keep them in shape) and a better living facility than many residents in this town could afford. There are few, if any, limits to what firefighters can do while on duty as long as they remain available for response. Many have second jobs that they successfully run while being paid by taxpayers as firefighters. They have very generous pay and pensions.
Yes, firefighters CAN have a dangerous job. Fire prevention in the last few years has become so good that the majority of assistance calls are medical in nature. This is a good thing but please get off the soapbox that firemen "constantly run into burning buildings." The Pleasanton FD were not first responders to the World Trade Center on 9/11.
Speaking of pensions -- did you know that ANY firefighter in California who retires on a disability will collect their entire pension tax free for life? Their current pension structure will pay them 80% of their final earnings (with raises every time a new contract is negotiated) for life -- TAX FREE. Now you see why every firefighter starts the evidence trail from day one about every "injury" adding toward their eventual "disability" retirement.
Speaking as one who values hard work, I have never had a problem with paying public safety officers a more than average salary. I object to the excessive benefits package, particularly the tax free pensions and medical coverage, that has contributed to a hard line on the part of city managers throughout California. This is not unique to Pleasanton and it needs to stop. A two tiered system is a start since no current employees are willing to get off the gravy train.
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Posted by Tommy Gavin
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 25, 2008 at 2:17 pm
While I am not an employee of the Livermore Pleasanton FD, I am a resident/taxpayer of Pleasanton and work for a neighboring bay area Fire Department. With that, respectfully I would like to clarify some inaccuracies included in the posts by anon and others..
anon wrote: "Firefighters work 10 regular days per month and most have the option to sign up for virtually unlimited overtime at time and one half pay"
While on average it amounts to "10 days per month" I would hardly label them "regular" as anon has. The "10 regular days" are not 8, 10 or even 12 hr days. These are 24 hr days. 24 x 10 = 240 hrs per month at a minimum. I will concede that some of these hours in the evening, 3-6 per shift, are spent sleeping. The rest however are spent responding to and acting upon emergency calls for service, public education, building inspections, fire prevention, equipment and facility maintenance and training.
Training is a whole animal in itself, we're talking about fire ground operations, Fire Officer training, Engineer training, medical training, rescue ops, area familiarization, building familiarization, pre-plans, state and federally mandated daily, monthly and yearly training are a "few" that come to mind.
In regards to the "unlimited overtime" in my agency 8 out of 10 times this is more of a burden then a benefit. We're already working "240 hrs" per month compared to "160 hrs" per month of the 8am-5pm employee. Like the rest of you we would like to spend some time with our families, tuck the kids in at night, do yard work, work on the house, pay bills, wash the car or the dog, go to little league or soccer games, go out to dinner or do nothing. When there are no volunteers to work an extra 24 hrs what do you think happens? Someone's father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother or sister is told they're not going home today, they're working another 24 hrs! Very few of you have been approached at the end of a long hard 8, 10 or even 12 hr day of work and were told by your supervisor "thanks for the day of hard work but you need to stay another 12 hrs, Oh you need to pick your kids up from school, sorry you'll have to make other arrangements. No..you can't leave for twenty minutes to pick them up we need you here, there is no one else to do your job! But it's ok we're paying you time and one half!" Often times this is after we have just completed 48 or even 72 consecutive hrs on duty!...Please....keep the money! Time and one half pay it is, but what's the price of missing your children grow up? I'll pass on the money, but thanks anyhow.
anon wrote: "The employer (Pleasanton taxpayers here) supplies not only the "room and board" but generally pays for premium cable fees and internet access (to alleviate boredom), workout equipment (to keep them in shape) and a better living facility than many residents in this town could afford"
The employer does in fact supply "room and board". The employer (city/taxpayers) does not provide food or incidentals (shampoo, toothpaste etc) for the employee. The uniqueness of this situation is the "room and board" is our office, the fire station. Don't most employers, either public or private, provide an office or work space for their employees? Is the employee required to bring their own toilet paper or hand soap to work? Do they require the employee to pay part of the electric, phone or water bill? Why should it be different for public employees?
As far as premium cable or any cable for that matter, none of this is paid for by the citizens. In my agency, as well as the LPFD, ( I've been told) all cable is paid for by the employees in the form of either direct payment from the employee or through union due which each employee had deducted from their wages monthly.
In regards to internet access, the employer (city, tax payers etc) does provide internet. Is the internet not a vital communication tool in all arenas of business in our world today? Email, faxes, documents, bulletins, daily correspondence, all of this is done electronically. Again should the employee be responsible for providing email in their place of employment to complete their required duties at work? Should we remove internet from all public buildings? Should we remove all phones as well?
In my agency and the LPFD (I've seen) some workout equipment is provided. Is it not clear why physical fitness is a priority in our line of work? 100 lbs of gear in 700 degree temperatures, crawling in zero visibility, second floor bedroom of a 3000 sqft residence and you come across a victim 100, 200 or 300 lbs. You find out real quick if all the blood and sweat you've put into your physical fitness program has prepared you for this. Rest assured when I'm on duty away from home I'm confident the members of the LPFD are physically ready to rescue members of all of our families. This is in no small part that, as tax payers, we have provided them a means by which to physically prepare for that challenge. We should be concerned if this WASN'T provided!
Not sure of the LPFD or City of Pleasanton policy but in my agency by no means are public employees to "run" a second business while on duty, anon you may want to do your homework on that one before making such a blanket statement.
anon wrote: "Yes, firefighters CAN have a dangerous job. Fire prevention in the last few years has become so good that the majority of assistance calls are medical in nature. This is a good thing but please get off the soapbox that firemen "constantly run into burning buildings." The Pleasanton FD were not first responders to the World Trade Center on 9/11"
I guess because your fire department was not first responders to the World Trade Center they may or may not have a dangerous job? Pay them a visit I'm sure they would be more then happy to educate you.
anon wrote: "Speaking of pensions -- did you know that ANY firefighter in California who retires on a disability will collect their entire pension tax free for life. Their current pension structure will pay them 80% of their final earnings (with raises every time a new contract is negotiated) for life -- TAX FREE.
Flat out incorrect! If a firefighter has the unfortunate occurrence of having to retire due to a disability, their pension is based on what they have earned up to the time of the disability with 50% of THAT earning tax-free. Once you retire, disability or otherwise, future contract raises no longer apply to the retiree.
I believe LPFD (as is my agency) retirement is a 3% @ 50 factor. What that means is the retirement/pension is based on 3% of your highest earning base salary year for every year of service. So if an employee puts in 25 years with the FD he would get 75% of his highest year base salary. How does any of this equate to 80 % as anon has suggested?
I'd also like to address "a union worker" post, this individual wrote: "Laying awake worried about him fighting out of area fires? Count your money while you think. Firefighters are not ordered to go, they volunteer -- because they get paid at least time and a half for every single hour that they are away. Travel time, sleeping time, time and a half minimum. And many times they do not actually work the fire lines since they may not have wildland fire training. They stand reserve in the local fire houses since the locals are out in the forest. Not that it isn't important, just don't make it sound like they have no control over going."
We (all firefighters) are in fact "ordered to go". If you are on duty and the call comes in guess what, you're it. Saying we volunteer to go is like saying "hey we've got a structure fire burning in Pleasanton, would anyone like to VOLUNTEER to go!" Sorry it doesn't happen that way.
We (all firefighters) do not get paid time and one half for every single hour we are away. If it's our "regular" duty day we get "regular pay".
We (all firefighters) will either be on the fire line or covering the fire station of the impacted agency as "union worker" has correctly stated; however what is incorrect is the following statement " And many times they do not actually work the fire lines since they may not have wildland fire training."
Every firefighter in the state of California is required to have minimum wildland training. You will not find one firefighter in the State of California that does not have this training. That would be the equivalent of a Life Guard not knowing how to swim, it just wouldn't happen!
And lastly we essentially do have "no control over going", regardless this would equate to firefighters refusing to do their job, and that would NEVER happen!