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.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Incident Management Rest New Safety Tool for ODF Wildland Firefighters

Incident Management Rest, Rotation and Recovery are words ODF firefighters should be aware of heading into the 2017 wildfire season.  A new policy effective January 1, 2017 establishes a new standard (with some exceptions) to mitigate fatigue following 14 consecutive days working on an incident.  This 14 day period, not including travel, is now recognized as the Standard Assignment and when called the time the employee should be prepared to be away from their regular work station.  

Following 14 consecutive days or nights the employee will be placed on “Incident Management Rest”, (IMR) relieved of their firefighting duties and receive 8 hours of straight time pay.  This even applies if the firefighter returns to their duty station on their regular day off.  This IMR rest period is not in the Contract and has been offered by ODF to mitigate the fatigue associated for those who have worked the full 14 day Standard Assignment.

Rest and Recovery refers to the 8 hours of paid leave when the employee returns on their regularly scheduled work day and has been away from their official work station for 21 or more consecutive days. This paid leave has been in the Contract for a number of years and is referenced in Article 60.3C.

Exceptions can be made in Rest and Rotation depending on incident severity and critical needs.

In short: Incident Management Rest: 8 hours of paid leave following 14 day Standard Assignment, that excludes travel.

Rest and Recovery, 8 hours of paid leave after being away from duty station for 21 or more consecutive days.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Essential Firefighting Personnel

To be an effective wildland fire/ all hazards response organization who and what duties are essential in the 21st century.  This was a topic at our most recent Labor/ Management meeting (essential firefighting personnel) and will be revisited on May 22nd when a committee meets to see if Police and Fire retirement benefits should be extended beyond the current designated job classifications and Incident Command System (ICS) positions.

The question of who these personnel are and how to recognize their contributions is difficult, more so when you go beyond the traditional on the ground firefighter and those who provide direct supervision and organizational control.  Urban police and fire personnel are certainly not as efficient when not supported by 911 dispatchers and fire chiefs.

One part of this recognition is to be included in the Police and Fire Retirement (P&F) benefit pool. Forestry wildland firefighters were not recognized as being firefighters until the 1990’s when a legislative solution to a lawsuit brought by Jesse Backman was signed into law giving the State Forester the ability to designate those eligible to receive Police and Fire Retirement benefits.  At that time non-strikeable firefighting position classifications (12 month benefit) and those ICS positions (5 month benefit - a typical fire season) associated directly with firefighting operations and those where there was a ladder from firefighting to direct supervisory or select command and general staff positions were included.  The only change I know of from the original designation is that Forest Inmate Crew Coordinators now receive P&F benefits for 12 months in recognition of their availability to respond to all hazard emergencies year around.

If you think that you are one of the Department’s essential firefighting personnel and should receive P&F benefits in recognition for your contributions please let me know, especially before May 22nd.  I would really like to hear your story and reasons.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Agenda, Forestry Local Statewide Meeting, April 29, 2017

Forestry Sub-Local members are invited to our Statewide meeting on April 29, 2017 at SEIU Headquarters in Salem.  The meeting will start at 10:00 am and conclude at 2:00 pm. For those who want to hear what's going and are unable to attend a call-in number for the first hour of the meeting is available from Mike Bray.

Please pre-register at the following location to ensure a good lunch count and secure lodging if needed:   Mileage will be reimbursed according to Local procedures.

Welcome and Introductions
President’s Message
Bargaining Update, Noel Magee, ODOT Coalition Bargaining Team Member
Financial Report
Membership concerns
Bargaining ideas, idea of a “parking lot” how to submit bargaining ideas
Labor/ Management Meeting - Agenda Items
Results of Corporate Vote
Statewide Forestry, organizing plan to be ready for bargaining in two years
Forestry Budget: hiring freeze, futuring
Good of the order
Distribution of promotional items (t-shirts, possibly a buckle drawing)
Next meeting
Reimbursement requests

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Just Because You Can Is It a Good Idea To Do It?

In the last two days I have heard stories of supervisors making sweeping changes in their employee's work duties.

Just because you can is it a good idea to do it?

Our Contract is clear that the Employer (represented by your Supervisor) has specific rights under Article 9. Management rights which are:
  1. Direct employees
  2. Hire, promote, transfer, assign, and retain employees
  3. Suspend, discharge, or take other proper disciplinary action against employees
  4. Reassign employees
  5. Relieve employees from duty because of lack of work or other reasons
  6. Schedule work
  7. Determine methods, means, and personnel by which operations are to be conducted

As a represented employee it is not so much that these rights are implemented but rather how they are implemented.  There is nothing in our Contract that talks about advance notice of these changes (except work schedules), but to have a change made without prior notice just does not seem to value the employee and the contributions they can make to the Department.  I don’t know if what I have heard about are isolated instances limited to one or two supervisors or something more systemic.

That is the purpose of this post to ask if there are more employees who have had complete changes to their work duties and how these changes were implemented.  Generally I believe there has been discussion, where employees can share their strengths and interests and what they can bring to the Department.  If this is the start of a change how we do things I would like to know, for possible inclusion at Labor/ Management.  The L/M agenda is jointly developed and depending on what I hear it would be a good idea to talk about it.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Forestry Statewide Meeting, April 29th

The next Forestry Sub-Local 629 Statewide meeting will be Saturday, April 29th beginning at 10:00 am at SEIU Headquarters in Salem.  Noel Magee, ODOT Coalition Central Bargaining Team member has confirmed that he will be at our meeting to provide a bargaining update.  We are currently in the two year wage and benefit re-opener of a four year contract that was negotiated in 2015.  Initial Union and State proposals are quite different and it will be good to hear from someone at the negotiating table to see what type of bargaining year we are in for.  Noel works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and with Mike Scott, ODOT, are our two bargaining representatives. The ODOT Coalition includes the Department of Forestry, Department of Transportation, State Parks and Recreation, Fish and Wildlife, Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Aviation.

If you have other agenda items for discussion please forward them though any of your elected officers or Mike Bray, our Forestry sub-local statewide coordinator.

SEIU 503 Headquarters is located at 1730 Commercial Street SE, Salem, Oregon.