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.

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