Thursday, February 24, 2011

Firefighters work hours are reduced when they go on leave....Why is that????

The big issue here is why do firefighters, who are 120 hour per pay period employees, lose hours down to 106 when they take leave??

Paid leave is a benefit. It is part of our employment contract. When a person applies for the job, any job, and that job offers benefits, those benefits become part of that employment contract. Well the same thing holds true when we applied for the job of firefighter. We applied for, we were hired and we accepted the job of a firefighter for a particular salary/or wages and benefits that were offered. Some of those benefits included paid sick leave and paid annual leave to name just a couple. So we, and I imagine anyone else, would expect to be paid full wages when on leave, not have your hours cut which is what has been happening to firefighters. I believe we are probably the only agency in the Govt of Guam whose employees lose hours and money when they go on leave. Do regular 80 hour employees have their hours reduced when they take leave? If they took one day of leave for 8 hours, would they only get a paycheck reflecting 72 hours of pay. I don't think so. Why the inequity here?

Well when Fire Chief Dave Peredo took over the helm at the Guam Fire Department his practice was to cut our hours down from our regular 120 hours per pay period to 106 hours when we go on leave. He even cut our military reservist and guardmen hours when they got deployed. He started this practice and continued it under his reign calling it part of his austerity program.

To set the record straight, we firefighters work a 120 hour schedule every two weeks and have done so since 2001. Prior to 2001 we worked 122.5 hour pay periods (14 days) since the late 1980s. We were never reduced to 106 hours when we took leave back then, because that is what paid leave is for. But Chief Peredo saw it different. He never thought twice about cutting our pay and hours and what impact it had on our families. But, as it turns out, when we take leave and we were reduced down to 106 hours, it thereby breeched our paid annual leave benefit. Since when does anyone go on paid annual leave and lose money? Firefighters did when Chief Peredo was the Fire Chief. Do any other employees lose their hours when they go on leave? Of course not because that is what paid leave is for…so an employee does not lose hours when they go on leave. You could actually say that this reduction in hours and pay is a type of furlough. And all this was done without due process.

Chief Salas saw the apparent violations here and has tried to right the wrong. But in return he has taken a lot of criticism from our oversite chair, Senator Palacios and the Public Auditor Doris Flores Brooks. Somehow, our work pay period has been interpreted as being 106 hours every two weeks or in a 14 day period. I ask this question……name me one firefighter assigned to the field that works a 106 hour per pay period schedule. The hours are very simple, every two weeks, we are scheduled to work five (5) 24 hour shifts. If you do the math, that comes out to 120 hours every two weeks.  How can anyone say that five (5) 24 hour shifts every two weeks equals 106 hours? The Public Auditor deals with a lot of numbers, maybe she can answer that as she contends that we do.

Well on Thursday March 3, 2011 at 2pm, there will be a roundtable discussion at the Guam Legislature Public Hearing Room, called for by our oversite chair Senator Adlopho Palacios. Representatives from the Attorney General’s Office, Office of the Public Auditor, Guam Fire Department, Department of Administration and the Guam Department of Labor have all been invited to attend. Hopefully these issues will be ironed out.

We will just have to wait and see.

Until next time....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Daily Poll Results: 6-8 Ambulances Enough??

The last daily poll question:  "Do you feel that 6-8 ambulances are enough to service our island properly as reported in the media recently?"
Results: Yes votes- 0
             No votes- 5
Though not many voted on this issue, the results were unanimous.

So how many ambulances do we really need to service our island?
Well if you think about it, that number really depends on response time. We need to ask ourselves a few questions. What response times are our administrators and leaders willing to settle for? What is the level of risk that they are willing to subject our residents to in the event of medical emergencies or other emergency responses? Are there any standards that we should consider in an effort to figure out what our response times should be?

That answer can be found in the standards of the National Fire Protection Association. Standard 1710, Organization and Deployment of Fire Suppression Operations, Emergency Medical Operations, and Special Operations to the Public by Career Fire Departments.

Within this standard the established response time to emergencies is 4 minutes 90% of the time. What does that  mean here on Guam. Well that means that we need to place our fire stations and have enough fire stations so that we can meet that standard.

In 1998, Fire Suppression Assistant Fire Chief Joe Tenorio and I drove around the entire island in in effort to figure out where these stations should be located. Our criteria was to drive the speed of 35 mph and record locations at 5 minute intervals.

We found that, other than the 12 fire stations we already have, the following areas were identified in need of fire stations:

Fire Station- Route 3 near Potts Junction/Machananao area. Covers the areas between Astumbo Fire Station and Yigo Fire Station.

Fire Station- Route 14A- Tumon Bay area, adjacent to the current Guam Police Precinct- Covers areas between Tamuning Fire Station and Dededo Fire Station.

Fire Station- Dairy Road- Mangilao area, adjacent to the Dept. of Agriculture- Covers area between Barrigada Fire Station and Yona Fire Station and Route 15 to Carnation Road.

Fire Station- Rt. 15 at Carnation Rd. Junction. Covers area between Dairy Rd Station and Gayinero Rd. Station.

Fire Station- Rt. 15 at Gayinero Rd Junction. Covers from Carnation Rd. Station to back gate of Anderson AFB. This anticipates military and civilian residential housing increase in area.

Fire Station- Rt. 4 near Mai Mai Rd. Junction. Covers from Sinajana Fire Station to Yona Fire Station and Mai Mai Road area.

Fire Station- Rt. 17 in Sinifa area. This area is just west of Tarzan Falls, Bishop Apuron area. This will cover the Cross-Island Rd between Agat Fire Station and Talofofo Fire Station which is in excess of 10 minutes from either Station.

Fire Station- Cetti/Cella Bay area. This area receives many wildland fires and is slowly building up with residences. This station would cover areas between Agat Fire Station and Umatac Fire Station.

Fire Station- Rt. 4 Asgadao, Malesso. This area is actually between Malesso and Inarajan. There are many residents in this area as well as family beach ranches. This station would cover the areas between Umatac Fire Station and Inarajan Fire Stations.

With the addition of these 9 stations, we can “plug the gaps” and ensure a much quicker response time. We would have a realistic opportunity to bridge those “gaps” and approach our goal of 4-minute response times.

So how many ambulances do we need? Well, the research has been done. It is up to the decision makers to determine the level of service they want for our people.

Until next time....