I am pleased to announce the Union has come to an agreement with the City to create our own shared leave bank.
On occasion, we’ve had a member or two that have fallen on hard times and they are forced to go into an unpaid status while they recover from an injury or illness. This “bank” will help protect our members by allowing them to use leave donated by us, when they are out of other compensated leave and find themselves on the brink of being without a paycheck.
I will admit this new policy is not perfect, but it is a starting point. The City has never wanted to allow us into the shared leave policy that the rest of the City employees have benefited from. This new bank allows us to keep our hours within our union membership and is separate from the rest of the City.
This is a two-part policy, the 1st part is related to COVID-19. You can donate sick leave, vacation, personal holiday, or comp time to a bank where our members who may be out of leave can access. During this first part, a member may access up to 96 hours of shared leave.
Part 2 of the policy starts when the COVID-19 portions end. The leave that was donated during COVID-19 will roll into this second part. The remaining balance of the bank will be applied as outlined in the current Human Resources policy and procedure manual section 10.13, with a few exceptions. The big exception is, if the City were to terminate the policy or materially change it, they would be required to bargain to the extent required by law. Under the HRPPM, you may only donate vacation, personal holiday, or comp time. Not sick leave.
With both portions of the policy, the member must be out of other compensated leave to include all accrued vacation, holiday and sick leave. As you may notice, only during the COVID-19 portion can we donate sick leave. I would encourage everyone with more than 80 hours of sick leave to donate some amount of leave. It could be as little as 3 hours of sick leave if you are new to the department or don’t have much leave, to a larger amount. As a reminder, any sick leave hours over 1440 at the end of the year are forfeited, so I ask that you think of your brothers and sisters and donate.
For more information, we will have the MOU posted on the Union’s website along with HRPPM 10.13 and a link to the shared leave donation form.
As you know now, by reading the City Manger’s email and the Fire Chief’s Special Notice, the City is projecting a or “preparing” for a budget shortfall. The 3.7% budget savings they are looking for is based on the economy opening back up on May the 4th. I want you to know that the Union will be involved in discussions with the City on what a 3.7% reduction means because it is about $2,100,000 cut to our operating budget. As you know, a good majority of the Fire Department expenses are putting butts in the seats. We will work hard to not only maintain the daily staffing but preserving what we need to do our job safely. As the City has planned, and they are aware they need a 10th station to address the needs of the citizens, our workload is not decreasing with a slowdown/shutdown in the economy. I cannot promise that everything will be safe, but we will work hard for you and our membership to minimize the impacts on our members.
I ask of you; please do not forward recommendations that discuss safety, wages, hours, working conditions, staffing reductions to the Fire Chief. If you feel you have a good proposal that may impact one or more of the before named issues, please forward it to your Platoon Rep, Fire Prevention Rep, or BC Rep.
I wanted to push out another message; sometimes, I don’t think there is much to say but as I start typing I realize there is.
Casualty Report – One thing you may have seen is the request to fill out a “casualty” report in ESO. I have been working with Chief Beste on the best way to track our COVID-19 contacts. When one of our members has flu/COIVD-like symptoms, they are trying to tie it back to a patient within the last 14 days to assist with a duty-related claim. The problem is they need to look at all the patients you saw and cross-references it with the spreadsheet of COVID positive patients. The research can be time-consuming, and a new name may show up after they searched. The idea is if you can add the casualty report, they can go back and find it quickly for you.
Station shoes– most if not all stations have adopted a practice of leaving your boots by the apparatus. Keith Allen is working with DC Dickerboom on this issue. They are looking at several options to include decontamination mats. Station shoes should be appropriate when you are not working around the public, drilling or apparatus checks. I am hoping you might see some communication on this.
Plastic in the Aid/Medic Units – The EMS Division is working on a solution that will allow air to flow from the front to the back. If you could imagine the fan being on in the patient compartment it creates a new kind of flow path from back to front. With a shared ventilation system, it could cause a problem. Remember this will be an added layer of protection, but the driver should continue to wear their eye protection and mask.
Morning Skype meetings– Chief Hagen is going to join the meetings on the first shift of each set to allow for direct communication and answer some questions.
Leaves – Some may know of the shared leave policy that most City employees can participate in; we may soon have our own. Stay tuned for details. We are still evaluating the new Federal Leave that was part of the last federal package to see how it applies to firefighters. There is a daily limit of $511/day, and that does not cover our wage for the day. Unfortunately, when it was drafted, there was not a lot of rules around it, so it is up in the air right now of how it will benefit us.
Masks/Social Distancing – King County Fire Chiefs and the IAFF are both encouraging social distancing while at work and at home so try your best. With the new recommendation from CDC on using “face coverings” when social distancing is not practical, we will be looking at what that means within the stations.
Since Chief Hagen implemented the self-screenings at fire department facilities, I have been working with Chief Beste on a couple of issues:
– When will an employee be tested?
– How the process and tracking will functionally work, and
– When can a member come back to work?
It has not been finalized, but I think we are getting close. We continue to address the leave usage in the bargaining process.
The Department has identified a quarantine and isolation site for members who cannot go home. The quarantine site is a Marriott Residence Inn and the isolation site is the Highland Community Center. Both are available for first responders and not general City employees.
Today the Department is starting a self-screening process for flu-like symptoms. You will see signs as you show up to work directing you to the “approved” entrance. This entrance will be where you will find the equipment to conduct the self-screening. You should see a thermometer, log sheet, screening guidelines, and disinfectant.
The self-screenings are to be conducted upon entry of the facility, mid-shift, and the end of your shift/work period. We are requiring everyone entering the facility to get screened. We do have City employees that work and move from facility to facility, such as Carter, and they will be screening in the morning at the first facility they work. They will not be required to test at every facility. I am working with Chief Beste on how to make it identifiable to others they have screened themselves.
We are screening for the following reasons: to protect you, your coworkers, along with bypassing the screening process at care facilities and hospitals.
The Union is working/bargaining with Fire Administration and HR in the leave usage if/when you go home due to a positive finding. Also, we are working on what we can do to assist our members who have limited leave.
One of the other concerns is how or should I get tested if I have a positive finding to self-screening. We are still working on that process; it is vital to know if you have a cold, Influenza A/B, or COVID-19 as we examine the return to work algorithm.
I apologize for the late post, I originally wanted to provide an update on Monday, but with each day I hoped that I would have new information that you may be wanting. Well, unfortunately, there are still unanswered questions and I don’t have any solid news to report.
I can say for now that we are continuing to ask the Chief for answers to questions and monitor changes to working conditions. Our WSCFF Rep continues to participate in daily conference calls and keeps me informed of issues that may arise.
Our EMS Division is working hard with our safety in mind and I/we should give a big thank you to Matt Burrow and Vic Bourque for assisting over the next couple of weeks.
If you have questions, please reach out to your Platoon Reps. I plan on sending out an update early next week unless there are new developments before then.
With the ever-changing landscape with the response around the Coronavirus, I wanted to take a moment to share some information. Starting back on Saturday morning, I received a text from Chief Adolfson letting me know about the Kirkland firefighters that were in quarantine. A short while after that, I was able to speak with their President, Bryan Vadney. I started to understand what their membership was going through, along with the amount of work ahead of them. I spent most of Saturday trying to anticipate and plan what was about to come over the next week.
I continue to stay in touch with Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville, along with our WSCFF district rep and our IAFF 7th District VP, and have offered assistance to their members affected. The IAFF and State Council have been there every step of the way, asking what they need and how they can help.
I know there are rumors out there of staffing their stations; currently, there is no plan to do so, but this could change quickly. We will be working with our labor partners and Fire Administration to draft a plan if or when the time comes. This plan may not just be for us staffing them, but they may need to staff one of our stations as well. I prefer to be prepared, talking about it, and ready, then to scramble at the last minute. We will continue to engage Fire Administration to ensure that we have a plan for what type of leave you will be on along with a location to host our members if they are not able to be at home. I did meet with Chief Hagen yesterday morning, and he agrees; we should be ready.
Our IAFF 7th District rep, Ricky Walsh, flew in this morning tomorrow to meet with our labor groups along with WSCFF President Dennis Lawson. We had a productive discussion lasting over three hours. We discussed some of the unanticipated barriers they had, in an effort for us to plan our way around them.
As of now, we have been lucky not to have one of our members in quarantine. If/when the time comes, I want you to know that your Union will be here to support you.
If you have questions, please reach out to your Platoon Reps. I plan on sending out an update on Monday unless there are new developments before then.
At the end of last year and the beginning of this year, the Freedom Foundation has sent out hundreds of public information requests across this state. One of them came to the City of Bellevue and your information was released to them. Typically, when any information is released by the City, regarding our members, the Union is notified by Human Resources (HR). In this case, HR was not even notified of this request. I can say that the individual in HR that we work with most of the time was not pleased about not knowing. Not only does it erode a working relationship, but it undermines his ability to appear honest.
The WSCFF along with other labor groups throughout the state filed a class-action lawsuit to prevent the release of this information. We joined that lawsuit at the end of January in an effort to protect your personal information. At that time, we were unaware the information was already released.
Here is what was released:
Birth Day (not year)
COB email address
You may be curious as to why they were looking for your birth month. Our understanding is that they want to send out “Birthday Cards” letting you know to give yourself a gift this year and opt-out of your union. You need to understand the Freedom Foundation is an anti-union group that is trying to dissolve unions. Some may say they are providing people with information that they do not have to be part of a union. While both statements are true; it is important that we stay united as a group to ensure that we are continually paid a competitive wage and our benefits are not reduced. Looking at the rest of the unrepresented City for 2020 their pay increase was 1.53% (90% of CPI) whereas a firefighter labor group we were able to negotiate a 4% increase for Firefighters, 3% for Fire Prevention Officers and 1.7% for Battalion Chief (4th year of their contract)
Without a supportive labor group behind our Union, it would be difficult to prevail in any effort. As we move forward the WSCFF is working on legislative changes and the Union will work towards an MOU (memorandum of understanding) to ensure the Union is notified of any public information release in the future.
With Kris Johnson’s transfer from B Platoon to A Platoon, it created a vacancy in the B Platoon Rep position. At our last Executive Board meeting, we voted to fill that position with Tom Fields and fill Tom’s position (At-Large) with Kris.
As you may be aware, there is a labor strike at one of our local hospital groups. Currently, there is a dispute between Swedish Hospitals and their workers represented by SEIU. This strike is to start today (Tuesday) and will impact Swedish Issaquah along with other regional Swedish Hospitals. The plan is for the strike to start Tuesday (1/28/20) morning and last until Friday (1/30/20).
While we are here to serve our citizens and we do transport on occasion to this location, the regular staff working there on Tuesday. They will have replaced the striking SEIU members with temporary employees who may not be familiar with the hospital and the other employees that are working there.
We understand the importance of working as a team and a cohesive group when it comes to an emergency. I am not saying that they will not be able to manage patients, but there may be some hiccups with care.
If a patient would like to be transported to Swedish Issaquah, you should explain to them that they are currently on strike and have temporary employees working at the hospital. This information would allow the patient to make an educated decision if they would like to go there or another local area hospital such as Overlake or Evergreen. If they suggest another Swedish Hospital in the area, you can let them know that this does impact all Swedish Hospitals.