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....