They’re changing our schedules at work by the end of the year. Currently we work 24 hours on, 72 hours off, which averages to 42 hours a week. The change put forth would change the schedule to 24 hours on and 48 hours off, with a regular Kelly day, which averages 48 hours a week. A regular day off Kelly day would be the 7th shift after working 6, it would drop off keeping the hours worked to 48 for the week.
The commissioners recently approved the application of a SAFER grant to hire 29 additional firefighters. The grant comes from the federal government, but the county does not have a sustainable source of income to pay for the positions because they think that a tax levy to pay for Emergency Services would be unpopular politically.
Currently individual companies raise their own money, but they are subsidized by the county through general tax revenue. The biggest expenditure in the near future will be for staffing, as the county transitions from a volunteer supported by paid staff system to a paid staff supplemented by volunteers system.
The change in schedule is their attempt to save money and delay collecting a fire tax.
The problem, is that we approached the county several months ago as a bargaining unit after we added 8 additional full time staff. The county administrators and the Union agreed to postpone and labor negotiations until additional staff and positions were filled. This change in schedule is unilateral and completely ignores the intent to negotiate after the interim period. The case could also be made that it’s punitive in nature in retaliation for attempting to organize. There are clear guidelines against this type of employer behavior.
I was never a big fan of unions, either in the private sector or public. But after working for both the Federal government and local government, I’m convinced that public sector unions are the lessor of the two evils. Even in the small Maryland county that I work, I can’t trust the politicians and local government officials, because it’s clear to me that the majority of them make decisions based on perceived political opinions, power plays and overbearing self interest. As far as the role of government goes, providing public safety is one of those undisputed areas that they are clearly responsible to provide.
The schedule would actually benefit me financially. I would keep the same hourly rate but work an additional 312 hours a year. That does seem like that much, but it’s the equivalent of just under 2 months of extra time at work, if I worked a regular 40 work week and about 7 weeks extra compared to what we work now. 7 extra weeks of pay isn’t a bad deal, but I’d rather spend the time with my daughter or fishing, or both.
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