Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wildfire Assistance Offered by SEIU 503

SEIU 503 is offering a one time financial assistance award to those members effected by this summers (2017) wildfires.  The link to this assistance is here:

A more complete description of how SEIU 503 is recognizing the contributions of wildland firefighters and this financial assistance award is at the SEIU 503 homepage.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Save October 21st for Statewide Meeting and Stewards Conference

All members are invited to our next Forestry Sub-Local Statewide meeting on Saturday, October 21st beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the Salem Convention Center, 200 Commercial Street SE, Salem.  At 9:30 a.m. our meeting will transition to the SEIU 503 Stewards Conference at the same location.  A call in option for the Forestry meeting is being planned.

The agenda for our Statewide meeting has not been set but the Stewards Conference has a number of interesting educational programs that will definitely make it worth staying around.  Registration is now open for the Stewards Conference and for more information contact your organizer.

While our Statewide Forestry Sub-Local agenda has not been set, one thing that will definitely happen is distribution of swag and a drawing for custom belt buckles.  For the buckles you must be present to win.

Please, save this day to participate in the operations of your Forestry Sub-Local.  To submit agenda items please do so through any of your Local’s elected leadership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Standard Assignment Needs a Revisit

"You mean if I had worked two more hours when I arrived at Horse Prairie that would have qualified me as working a full Standard Assignment”, yes that is the way the new Standard Assignment Policy is being applied.  The way the Standard Assignment Policy is being applied is that an employee has to work a minimum of 12 hours/ day at the fire or incident to begin the count. A full Standard Assignment is a total of 14 continuous days where the employee works a minimum of 12 hours per day. It was a bit of a shock to the employee quoted who drove 4-5 hours and began assigned fire duties for 10 more hours that they did not qualify as a day working on the fire.   Travel time to and from the incident does not count towards Standard Assignment calculations.

While the concept and need of a Standard Assignment and day of Rest and Recovery were brought to the bargaining table (thank you Brandon), at that forum there was just not enough time to adequately discuss, develop, and fine tune workable Contract language.  Standard Assignment and Rest and Recovery were developed as Policy and are not associated with our Contract and subject to interpretation through the grievance process.

The Standard Assignment/ Rest and Recovery Policy is a strong and bold move towards recognizing the health and safety of Department Firefighters and as noted in a June posting, welcomed.  Now that the Policy has been field tested it is hoped that there will be an after season review of how it helped maintain firefighter readiness and explore opportunities for improvement.  A forum for that input is the quarterly Statewide Labor/ Management meeting.  I anticipate that the Standard Assignment will be on the next meeting agenda and stories of how it worked and ideas for improvement would be greatly appreciated and can be forwarded through any of your elected leadership.  Don’t be shy, this is the time to make this very good idea better.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipse 2017, On Call or Standby

In less than a week, the path of Eclipse totality will pass across Oregon from the Coast to Idaho border, and many Department employees will have schedules and work duties changed to respond to possible emergencies.  As part of these changes “spiking out” staff with engines will be in the mix to put wildland firefighter resources close to where they are needed and not be hampered by possible traffic jams.

Standby or On Call duty pay may apply, know what your expectations are before you go.  As I am writing this Management is also looking at the same subject and will be offering guidance to local Supervisors.

From our Contract, Article 34 - Standby Duty/ On Call Duty

Section 1. Standby Duty.
  1. An employee shall be on standby duty when required to be available for work outside his/her normal working hours, and subject to restrictions consistent with the FLSA which would prevent the employee from using the time while on standby duty effectively for the employee’s own purposes

Pay for FLSA-eligible employee’s straight time rate of pay, or for FLSA-exempt hour for hour compensatory time off.

Section 2. On-Call Duty.
(b) An employee shall be assigned on-call duty when specifically required to be available     for work outside his/her working hours and not subject to restrictions which would prevent the employee from using the time while on-call effectively for the employee’s own purposes.

Employees shall be paid one hour of pay at the regular straight time rate for each six hours of assigned on-call duty.

From “Your Rights in the Workplace” 9th edition:
  • On call time that you are allowed to control and use for your own enjoyment or benefit is not counted as payable time.
  • On call time over which you have little or no control and which you cannot use for your own enjoyment or benefit is payable time.

Another way of looking at Standby/ On-Call is, are you waiting to be engaged which you do not get paid for, or engaged to wait which you do get paid for.

In advance of the Eclipse it will be important to know what the Department’s expectations are while you are spiked out, can you go swimming and carry your radio or do you need to wait in the engine’s cab.  Asking ahead will be better for everyone.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Eclipse, Plan Ahead and Prepare

In less than three weeks, on August 21st, Oregon will be in the path of totality of a solar eclipse that sweeps from the Coast to Idaho border.  That is the known known.

The unknown known is how will the eclipse effect the Oregon Department of Forestry’s mission to prevent and suppress wildfires.  There is a lot of work being done to have an idea of what this unknown will be and how to mitigate it if it does jeopardize the Department’s fire fighting mission. This is well and good and thankfully there are a lot of really bright people working on the project and come eclipse time good plans will be in place if bad things happen.

Another known known are the expected employee contributions to minimize the effect on Oregon’s forests from wildfire.  Unlike a fire emergency that starts from a spark and can grow rapidly enough to threaten a city and involve a Incident Management Team within a few hours there is time to plan for this event and that planning should include the care and feeding of involved staff.  I just heard a story of past dated Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) being provided to some of our firefighters. If an MRE is going to substitute for a meal it needs to be served before it’s past pull date.  If this happens to you will you please let your Steward or someone from your Local’s leadership team know.  Our Local is also reaching out to those Districts and Units within the Path of Totality to provide “snacks” to go along with the provided meal, again, please contact your Steward or elected Local leadership to make these arrangements.

Plan ahead and prepare, be safe.

Friday, July 7, 2017

President’s Wildfire Message

We have now heard from the Chief and Safety Officer about our 2017 Oregon wildfire season, so I thought it would be appropriate that you heard from your Forestry Local President.  Complete and coordinated includes you, the wildland firefighter and all the budgeting, planning, staffing, training time and tools that are now ready for your wildfire suppression mission.  Travel time maps, pump discharge rates and friction loss in hose were all factored in here, the technical part of our work.

As your Local President, my focus is on you, the human component of the wildfire suppression equation.  Hose and shovel do very little to suppress a wildfire unless someone picks them up and knows how to use them effectively.  

Two words, good decisions.

I ask you to make the best decisions possible, wildfire demands it. Come to work prepared, practice like you’re going to play, fight fire aggressively but provide for safety first, LCES, respect your coworkers.  I’ve internalized these thoughts and didn’t have to go to the Fireline Handbook to look them up and you may want to also.  Decisions are everywhere just think about what goes into pushing dozer line in Southwest Oregon when the inversion lifts.  How will you feel when you made the right decisions and the line holds?  So this summer (fall, winter, spring) think, and make those good decisions you will feel better for it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bargaining Brings More Money for Skills and Late Nights

Bargaining is currently underway in the second half of our four year contract and bright spots are increasing the differential for night work and a new one for tree falling.

The shift differential for working on Saturday, Sunday and between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am had been $0.75 per hour and our bargaining team is working to raise it beyond the $1.00 per hour (a $0.25/ hour increase) recently offered by Management. While regular "weekend" shift work is generally limited to firefighting and recreation staff everyone may see this as a benefit when working on an incident.  The goal of our bargaining team is to raise it beyond Management's initial offer to recognize the willingness to accept incident assignments and off regular shift schedules.

Another move is recognizing ODF, Parks and ODOT tree fallers with a tree falling differential.  Cassie Zook represented ODF employees in describing the work involved with tree falling which aided the discussion in creating this new differential.  For ODF tree fallers doing "Level 3" work they will receive $1.25/ hour in addition to their regular salary while evaluating, falling and processing trees that will and are being felled.

Both of these differentials would not likely have happened without employee interest and solid work at the bargaining table.  The big issues still needing resolution are the pay and benefit package and any help and support you can give the bargaining team will be much appreciated.