Friday, August 19, 2011

Firefighters Accused of Receiving 61 hours of Excessive Pay!!! What's that all about??

Lately there has been a lot of press of the firefighters receiving 61 hours of excessive pay. This is what is claimed by the Office of the Public Auditor (OPA) report. 

Here is the executive summary of that report...

Page 1

Page 2

You can read the entire report here.

Here are just a few of my thoughts on this matter and these are just the tip of the iceberg....

This was sent to Brett Kelman, Pacific Daily News and others.... 

Read the on line PDN headlines: "$6.3 million for no work". And you know Brett, its true. That $6.3 references those "non-productive" hours of firefighters. In her report she illustrates where those hours come from. She said that we work a 106 pay period. When we go on leave we are only charged 45 hours for that pay period. And the balance, is 61 hours that she says we are getting paid and not working. Other terms for this from her, "bonus money, free money". Let me clarify the spin on this topic. 

First we work a 14 day pay period, not a 106 hours pay period. All Gov Guam Employees work a 14 day pay period. And we do not work a 106 hour pay period, we work 120 hours within that 14 day pay period. So there is already inaccurate info on the report. 

Now the 61 hours. Well she refers to the hours when we are on leave. Well we are not productive when we are on leave. What employee is? The law is clear, for every day that we go on leave, and that is a 24 hour period (one of Websters definitions) we are only to be charged 9 hours ( Senator Palacios voted to pass the 9 hour leave bill so why is he complaining about it). So that means we should be paid for that because we all have a paid leave benefit in the Government, to include the OPA's personnel. So, by law, we are supposed to be paid while we are on annual, sick or other leaves, if we still have leave on the books. If she is saying that we are not supposed to be paid for those 61 hours when we are on leave, then is she insinuating that we should go on leave without pay when we go on vacation. Is she saying that when we go on vacation for one pay period, we should only get paid for 45 hours and not the rest, 61hrs? So in essence we would be on Leave Without Pay for the 61 hours. Does the rest of Gov Guam do this when they go on vacation? Does the 80 hour worker lose pay when they go on vacation? Really, why would Firefighters be treated any different. And when you start to treat employees differently for the same principles, then you start to violate their civil rights.

We work 120 hours within every pay period. That is the schedule. We currently are not getting paid, while on leave, for those hours over 106. We lose money. The paid leave is supposed to pay for those hours. 5 days x 24hrs/day = 120 hours. We are the only employees within the Govt of Guam that actually lose money when we go on leave. Is this fair? No, I think not. And the Federal Courts have ruled on this in firefighter's favor. As a matter of fact, the federal courts have ruled that when we go on leave, we not only get paid for all hours on leave, but any hours over 106 in a 14 day period, must be compensated at OT rates. We don't get this either and we are not making a big issue about it right now.

Now if the OPA doesn't like the law that she help vote in, P.L. 20-172, regarding firefighter compensation, then lobby for the law to be changed.

Our 14 hours OT every payday, which we have been receiving since 2003 and before that 16.5 hours since the 1980s, is termed "customary overtime" by the federal courts. This is OT that is scheduled to be worked. I have attached one federal court ruling regarding this matter. It is all explained therein. We are looking at taking this matter to court and are currently in discussion with 3 attorneys (by different firefighters) that I am aware of.

It is just a shame that the OPA and Senator Palacios have cast another dark cloud over the firefighters. Here we are portrayed as the bad guys and all we do is go to work and respond to emergencies. If people are jealous because we make more salary than most, than maybe they should put in their applications to become firefighters. Maybe they may be one the lucky 30 out of 1000 who make the cut. But don't blame us for getting the education, getting the specialized training, most on our own dime, in order to get a head in the world. Just because some folk's wages are below the poverty level, everyone else should be also? Become a firefighter, if that is what you want, and see if you can handle the job. It is not for everyone and not everyone can do the job. Sometimes the job is very gruesome and stressful, not to mention dangerous with many hazardous exposures.

But the bottom line is that the non productive time is that time when we are on paid leave. We do not get paid for all hours when on leave. OT hours are mandated to be paid by the Federal Government. Night differential is for all Gov Guam employees. 

The OPA and Senator Palacios appear to be putting a different spin on these issues, in my opinion, for whatever their real agendas are.

I guess we are not going to be getting any Firetrucks, ambulances, equipment or firefighters any time soon. It appears the priorities of some folks are not concerning the safety of our employees and residents of Guam.

My second email to Brett Kelman, Pacific Daily News...

Thanks Brett. You know the most disappointing part is that we firefighters go to work and earnestly perform our jobs to the best of our abilities. I have spent almost 39 years in public safety. 25 of those years with the Guam Fire Department. I have worked hard, gone to school, went to specialized training, kept my nose clean and devoted myself to the service of the public. That is why I voice my opinion. I am just trying to help out by explaining things. If I didn't care, I wouldn't even bother. I am an intense and dedicated individual when it comes to serving and protecting the public. Many firefighters are like this. And to see people cut us down to push their own agendas with wanton abandon and no animosity whatsoever with who they hurt, families mind you, is truly disappointing and disgusting. 

Well the OPA is wrong, she knows it and she still pushes her views. These are not even objective. It's so obvious for those in the know. 

I mean really read the whole report. The 61 hours "non-productive" time, the basis for most of the savings of money in this report, is all leave hours. She is actually saying that we should not be paid for those hours on leave. So when we go on leave, as I said before, is she expecting us to only get paid for 45 hours worth in a two week period. Where is the equity here? All the 80 hours employees are paid for the entire 2 weeks when they use their leave benefit. Even the OPA's employees. So when you start using double standards like this, you start to infringe upon the rights of individuals as well as classes of employees and this is, quite frankly, a Civil Rights violation.

The 14 hours overtime for anything over 106 hours in a 14 day pay period is a federal law. Gov Guam has to obey that. It takes precedence over local law.

The night diff is offered to all Gov Guam employees. Hazardous pay, we don't get it. EMT pay, only the firefighters that work on the ambulance for that particular shift get that pay. The ALS personnel also receive it . All these laws passed by the legislature.

As a matter of fact, the OPA herself, when she was a Senator in the 20th Guam Legislature, voted for this 106 hour/14 hour overtime firefighter compensation. That law is 20-172 and I have attached it for you. Her name is present and on the voting sheet. Same with Sen. Palacios. He voted during the 28th Guam Legislature to approve our compensation bill and 9 hour leave stipulation also. It is all on the Legislature web site. I attached that law also with showing Sen. Palacios voting for this measure. This is pure and simple, political grandstanding at it's best. These two persons voted these laws in and now they are complaining about them at the expense of the firefighters and their families. So sad...

Anyway, I do have plenty of hard core factual exhibits and maybe we can sit down and go over these so that you can see the "real" picture.

The facts have been distorted. How much money will anyone save if all the firefighter's don't go on leave. Not a penny. But I guess the threat of treating us like 4th rate Gov Guam workers is satisfaction enough for them. As the saying goes, Politics is dirty.....

These are just a few of my thoughts. What I haven't seen was a real example of how any of these so called non-productive hours and pay are excessive and who received this excessive pay, when, and why was that excessive. 

Actual specifics should really be shown. And then also how the pay is excessive.

I may expand on this thought thread later. There are so many more discrepancies in the report to bring attention to. I want to see where this is all going first. I have my suspicions. 

Until next time....

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