Pennsylvania Town Switches To Volunteers; Chief, Career Staff To Be Laid Off

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Tribune-Review

Uniontown has notified its entire paid fire department that all six members and the chief will be out of jobs by the end of the year, with volunteers to take their place.

In a letter sent Wednesday to the International Association of Firefighters Local 955, Councilman Gary Gearing notified firefighters the layoffs will be complete by Dec. 31, when the next contract expires.

City council voted Tuesday to notify the fire department of the intended layoffs. Mayor Ed Fike said the move is intended to save money.

Fike said although the fire department recently landed a $632,835 federal grant to bring the force back to its full complement of 11, council is uncertain it can legally accept the funds.

Fike said city officials have questions about how to replace those funds when the grant runs out.

Joshua Bloom, a Pittsburgh attorney who represents the firefighters, said today the union plans to fight the layoffs.

Copyright 2010 Tribune Review Publishing Company
All Rights Reserved
August 26, 2010

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Ok I never said anyone was overpaid all I said was that 80% of the annual budget goes to pay. And to me that seems a bit outrageous. If I'm on a dept. that has that much going to pay and only 20% going to split up between fuel, training, utilities, equipment and things like that we are going to be lacking a lot of things. We can't always rely on grants to fund our dept. its not feasible. So there are only two ways you can solve this either raise the budget to the point that you can get the stuff you need, which in these times is almost impossible, or you have to make cuts.
Just FYI for everyone, my dept. Is a vol. Dept. In PA. Here, vol. Depts are not paid usually. Also, the volunteer departments are independent, self funding, self governing agencies without direct control of the government agency for their area. Our department is an incorporated non profit organization that relies on donations and grants to fund the department, pay for vehicles, etc. With that said, the township or city can have a tax to support the dept, or can pay for certain things for the.dept. my township helps in small ways here and here but.the big thing they do is pay half of our truck payment annually. Could Uniontown go to paid on call, sure. But I think when they said volunteer, they meant unpaid.

As far as.ISO goes, their response times will drastically increase. Vol. can run blue lights on thier vehicles, but must obey all traffic devices and speed limits. Only chiefs and division heads can run as an emergency vehicle with their POV. In a rural area it does have an effect on response times, but not as great as a city. There aren't any stop lights in our township, but if it was a city with numerous stop lights and other traffic control devices it will be a fight to get to the station. There is a big difference between stopping and safely going thru a red light, and having to stop for a red light and wait for it to turn green.
Does the vol. ambulance.company provide ALS or just BLS? The fire dept ambulance companies here in nwpa usually provide BLS only, but have a regular ambulance service provide a medic for ALS services. In some cases we will hear a fire dept tripped for quick reponse, a nearby fire ambulance tripped for BLS, and a regular ambulance service for ALS. Technically, 3 stations or departments for one EMS call
Heres a question for you if they mainly rely on volunteers like they do already to do a majority of the firefighting will there really be that great of difference between old response time and the new, yes they had a truck there in 3 minutes but how long did it take for actual operations to get going? I don't expect anyone to have the answer but they are throwing out all these numbers to scare people into believeing its such a bad decision but if you look carefully at it there probbly won't be much of a difference.
Our Shop did a survey of all paid/combination departments recently to compare their budget spending to ours. All departments ranged from 72-78% of the total budget going to wages and benefits. So no it's not uncommon for a dept to spend that amount.
Anyone that says they will not respond to calls should be hung by the balls.....if you don't like a situation you don't threaten the public....this is not only wrong but I believe it is illegal under the Taylor Law....You work it out.....through mediation and bargaining.....refusing to respond is gross negligence on the part of everyone involved and they could be sued in both a criminal court and a civil court.....
For example they can write a letter saying at current manpower levels we cannot protect the city of UnionTown adequately as an all volunteer like we can as a combination dept, have all the firemen sign it or start a petition and have all the volunteers sign it first then have them go out in the community and get signatures and have the volunteer crew deliver it to the city council. This way the city council knows its not just from the paid guys trying to save their jobs its also how the volunteers feel about whats going on.

And how would this suggestion be really any different than what they are saying now? This raises the issue to the city to think about their decision. Yes, saying we won't respond is a knee jerk reaction to a knee jerk reaction, but the issue should get attention and get addressed.

The show of solidarity puts the pressure on the elected officials to think about their decision. Ultimately it may come down to the public, because in order to address things means cuts, cuts elsewhere, or tax increase. If the community doesn't support the fire dept, then why should the fire dept about supporting the community? Hypothetical question of course. Writing letters and getting signatures is a time consuming endeavor, the time for action is now and that may be the reason for things going on if that is true.

Yes its true that no one can force people to go on calls, however when you volunteer to the fire dept, you are making a commitment that you should honor.

And times and situations can change. It isn't like the military where you volunteer and sign into a contract, you are a volunteer and if the reasons for which you have initially volunteered change, then it is one's perogative to do as they please. Community support also helps, but if a community is just taking for granted then sometimes the issues need to be addressed, such as now.
Ok I never said anyone was overpaid all I said was that 80% of the annual budget goes to pay. And to me that seems a bit outrageous. If I'm on a dept. that has that much going to pay and only 20% going to split up between fuel, training, utilities, equipment and things like that we are going to be lacking a lot of things.

A bit outrageous to you, yet again is a typical type of norm. Again the public sector is not in the role of turning a profit and wages and benefits are comparable to similar type of jobs. After all that is how negotiations work. To latch on the the idea that 80% is outrageous is basically saying you think such personnel are overpaid.

Fuel, equipment, training, etc makes up a small portion of a budget and is why there isn't a lot of money going to it. Some things like rigs etc, high expenditure items, can be handled at a city level where it doesn't come out of dept budget. Just because the dept budget consists of majority of wages and benefits, doesn't mean that money isn't available outside the dept budget. For instance we had to get 2 new trucks for the city, since that is a capital expense, the money came from the city's general fund, not the dept budget.
they are throwing out all these numbers to scare people into believeing its such a bad decision but if you look carefully at it there probbly won't be much of a difference.

Throwing numbers to scare people? How about using facts and numbers to show a reason that this knee jerk decision should be looked into? It is too easy to pass off such facts as non-chalant scare tactics, reductions do make an impact, whether it is layoffs, brownouts, station closings, or going from career staff to volunteer.

As for how long it took for operations is a hypothetical question and only the dept involved can answer. However, even if say it was 2 people responding in the rig awaiting volunteers, initial knockdown can be made with a stinger, or an transitional attack. Rescue operations can be immediately initiated if there is a life safety threat and so forth. These are not ideal conditions in any way, but there are things that could be done, but now there would be a longer time issue to contend with. Not scare tactics, but facts.
You work it out.....through mediation and bargaining

Mediation and bargaining by what, the volunteers? Those are the ones supposedly threatning they won't respond. It does raise the issue to the elected officials for them to state as much, because it is easy for the officials to just say we are going with an all volunteer dept, yet chances are never talked it over. Taking such a stance does force the issue and makes the community and elected officials aware of the situations and decisions are not as cut and dry as they so think.

The Taylor Law you mention appears to only apply to NY and to public employees and unions, not about volunteers.
will the volunteers stick to their guns and say we aren't going to respond to calls and will the union be able to fight this if thats whats decided?

Depends on the volunteers and that is their perogative. The union is fighting the layoffs of the people involved, not the transition to an all volunteer dept, if that truly is what wins out.
As for how long it took for operations is a hypothetical question and only the dept involved can answer. However, even if say it was 2 people responding in the rig awaiting volunteers, initial knockdown can be made with a stinger, or an transitional attack. Rescue operations can be immediately initiated if there is a life safety threat and so forth. These are not ideal conditions in any way, but there are things that could be done, but now there would be a longer time issue to contend with. Not scare tactics, but facts.

Ok you might be able to do knock down of the fire from the exterior with an attack line if it's that envolved

But I'm sorry I don't know a chief in their right mind that would send just two guys in to do rescue with no back up there in case something happens. Thats not only stupid thats just plain negligent.

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