Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Real Story about Firefighter's Leave

I am hoping that all you readers of the PDN, Mariana's Variety, and all of you who watch KUAM, PNC and any other news agencies that carried the story about the Public Auditor's report on the Firefighters Non-Productive Pay on Leave and Other Compensation read this. And I am just getting started.

Folks, let's face it, this is all about politics. There are forces that have wanted to find ways to cut the firefighter's pay for years. I know this for fact because I have been asked by Senators regarding going to the 8-hour shift numerous times. But the 8-hour shift will be another post.

Why do I say its political. Well read further and I will explain.

The Public Auditor bases most of her report on firefighter compensation on the so-called 61 hours involving firefighter leave hours. The OPA refers to these hours in her report as "non-productive and bonus compensation". Well I will agree with her that these hours are non-productive hours. 

Answer me this, who, when they are on leave is productive? No one right? Not even the Public Auditor herself, Doris Flores Brooks, can claim she is technically productive when on leave. Maybe if you are on Admin leave and going to a conference, you may be productive. But when we are taking about the leave that the Public Auditor herself is talking about, no one is productive. So why is she singling out the firefighters?

Oh, she says that we work a 106 hour pay period and when we go on leave we are only charged 9 hours per day for a total of 45 hours per pay period. This, she says, results in 61 hours of non-productive pay or as she said, the Attorney General's moniker for it, "bonus pay". This 61 is a result of subtracting the 45 hours charged for a firefighter taking a full pay period of leave, 5 working days (24hrs/day) from the "106 hour pay period".

OK, so I hope we are all on the same page so far. So yes, when any employee is on leave, they are not productive. Even every one of you readers that have a paid leave benefit at your job. As for as the AG referring to "bonus compensation". How can anyone get a bonus for being paid when on leave. Doesn't everyone that has a paid leave benefit as part of their compensation package for their job, get paid when on leave? I believe that is what paid leave is for. When an 80 hour worker goes on one day leave, do they only get paid 72 hours for the pay period? No, they get paid the full 80 hours. That is what paid leave is for!! So where is this so-called bonus pay. Why then would firefighters be paid any different? Is there discrimination involved here?

Here is the law:

"Firefighters shall be charged no more than nine (9) hours annual leave or sick leave for any given day on which such leave is taken." 

The key phrase here is "any given day". Well what do you think that means. Don't you think that if we have paid leave, just like any other Gov Guam employee or any other employee in the private sector, we should be paid for that day of leave taken. That is what the law states and it should be applied equally to everyone. The law doesn't state anything about a one for one exchange or hour for hour. That is not the language that the Senators, and this includes many Senators going back to the 12th Guam Legislature, approved. They said 9 hours charged for any given day.

What is a day you might ask? Well the Department of Administration Rules and Regulations Manual defines a day on page 117 as a calendar day. How many hours are in a calendar day? I hope we can all agree that there are 24 hours in a calendar day. Therefore firefighters are supposed to be paid for an entire calendar day when on one day of leave. And firefighters are only to be charged 9 hours for it. Why are firefighters only charged 9 hours? One would have to ask all the Senators that passed all the various versions of this law since the 12th Guam Legislature. But be that as it may, that is the law.

Is this law equitable? How can you compare an 80 hour employee to an employee that works 120 hours? You really can't. Their work shifts are so different. If we were to be fair, we should increase the firefighters leave accrual rate because they work 50% more hours in a pay period than the typical 80 hour employee. So maybe we should accrue 50% more leave per pay period. Don't you think that would be fair? But we all know you really can't compare apples to oranges, if we are going to be "fair".

So knowing all of this how can a firefighter, who takes 5 days of leave, because that is how many shifts (24hrs each) we work in a pay period (14 days), receive any bonus pay if we are only compensated for 106 hours for that pay period? As a matter of fact, if you do the math, we actually work 120 hours in a pay period but we are not compensated for all of it. We are shorted 14 hours. I believe, if all of you are following me so far, we are being shorted 14 hours of pay here, a complete violation of the law. No bonus pay here.

The Public Auditor didn't bring that issue up did she? Why not? Isn't she supposed to be thorough? I mean, a certified public auditor of the stature of Doris Flores Brooks, who is presenting some pretty serious accusations to the public about firefighter compensation, should be very accurate and not leave any stone unturned. Right? And let me illustrate another inconsistency in her report.

Ms Brooks writes in her report that firefighters work a 106 hour pay period in a 14 day pay period in which they work 120 hours. Does that make sense?

Here is what we really work. We work a 14 day pay period just like all Gov Guam employees. Within this pay period, we work five (5) 24 hours shifts (8am to 8am) for a total of 120 hours of work in a pay period. Not one firefighter who works the 24 hour schedule works 106 hours. So I have no idea how anyone can say we work a 106 hour pay period. And I will challenge anyone to name just one firefighter who does. Just name one firefighter. I mean if you are going to claim something, then back it up with some hard cold facts.

So in retrospect, yes while on leave, all those hours are non productive, because we are not working!!!! And as far as the AG's claim of bonus compensation, well if we are only getting 106 hours of compensation while on leave but we are supposed to be compensated for every day (24 hours) while on leave, we are actually being shorted 14 hours while on leave. No compensation for 14 hours!!! So where is the bonus here!!! I don't think that we have to be an attorney or an auditor to understand what is happening here.

But wait, there's more......

I know, it sounds like an infomercial.

Here is one of the laws that adopted the 9 hours of leave for firefighters. There are many others. Read it and make note of all those Senators who voted to pass this law. Public Law 28-72.

Cover Page

Public Law Signature Page

Page 1

Page 2

Voting Sheet

Committee Voting Sheet

You can view this in its entirety here.

Now that you have read all that and viewed all the signatures, let me ask you this. Do you think all of these Senators and the Gov. Felix Camacho did not know what they were signing? Do you think that they did not know what they were doing? Of course not. They are all very intelligent persons. So why is Senator Palacios bad mouthing this leave compensation and so called inequities? He voted for it.

Here is what Senator Palacios had to say in the Pacific News Center report by News Director Kevin Kerrigan....

Click this link PNC News

So we vote for it one day and complain about it the next. I guess everyone has the right to change their mind. I guess....

But, as you can see even the Lt. Governor himself, Ray Tenorio, voted to pass this measure into law. And rightfully so. The Lt. Governor has always supported the firefighters and other public safety officials. He has always had our "backs"!!! And we thank him for that.

So is anyone at fault for passing this measure and signing it into law? I think not. It did stem from the 12th Guam Legislature. I mean these Senators were voted into office, so many of you out there, including me, voted them in and, because of that, had a hand in their work and actions. And in this case, passing this measure into law. 

All we did was vote these politicians into office. And all they did was pass this one measure, which was signed into law, because they felt is was a good measure and the right thing to do.

So why is all this happening now? I will leave that all up to you. My opinion..... politics as usual. It is just the firefighter's turn now. And the powers to be don't appear to care who gets hurt. Maybe next week it will be GPD, Corrections, who knows. You have all seen how these things work out. And it all makes such wonderful news and very juicy comments in the news media. It gives a lot of people something to do.

So my point being, how can anyone say that the firefighters are thieves, crooks, abusers of the system, when they had no part in determining their pay any more than you did. They are just the worker bees. As a matter of fact, you all know that the Government still owes the public safety officers 20% more on the public safety increments. So someone thought we were worth more.

Excessive pay they say? It doesn't appear so. Show me specifically where.

Money savings? How can we save any money here when there is no basis for these monies that were based on the non-productive hours when employees go on paid leave as I have illustrated?

Simple words....distortions of the facts.

People pushing their own agendas??? 

No one did anything wrong then nor now concerning the firefighter leave compensation. 

Wait, I am wrong here. Firefighters are not getting compensated for all their leave hours right now when they go on leave. They are being shorted 14 hours because they only get 106 hours of paid leave when the law states that they are supposed to get 120 hours of compensation. Remember? So yes, firefighters are not getting bonus compensation, the are getting shorted. And that's the law......

Until next time.....

PS- Next post I will explain the basis for the firefighters pay of 106 hours of regular pay and 14 hours of overtime pay per pay period and who voted for this law. You are going to be very surprised with what I have to show you. There is more to expose!!!!

PSS- I will be the first to admit that I am not an English Major, so please bear with me. I am trying my best. -Rueben-

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