October 27, 2007

"We want what they have..."

This article is a follow up to this prior article

The firefighters make a good point. We want to get paid what all other public employees get paid as far as pensions. What they fail to point out is that this is the basis of the problem we are in today. Each govt. employee just keeps pointing to the next higher salary at another city and starts a bidding war. A bidding war not using private dollars of companies but taxpayer dollars taken from private employees paychecks.

Govt. employees salaries and pensions have no corollary in the private sector. Maybe they did at one point in time but no longer. With the demise of unions in the private sector and the opposing rise of public employees unions, the disparate result in pensions is staggering. The other problem of course is that politicians who set these salaries, pensions and benefits (dont forget the generous life time healthcare) are spineless wimps who only want to get re-elected and are glad to sell voters down the river and saddle them with huge tax liabilities in the future to fund these giveaways which will only increase as time goes on. The public employee unions are also shrewd politicos themselves, as Arnold Schwarzenegger found out two years ago. Quite frankly its easier to do a snow job on the sucker taxpayer/voters as most are asleep at the switch. Most of these pension and salary giveaways are claimed to be public but in reality are cloaked in secrecy.

Government employees fail to realize that its called "public service" for a reason. Now it has become the new ruling elite. The employer of last resort is now offers the most sought after union jobs in the country. Meanwhile the private sectors wages, benefits and pensions has been ravaged by the Bush tax policies and years of mergers and corporate raiding by venture capitalists. Govt. employees also fail to realize that all their pensions and benefits come from the taxpayers and are guaranteed against all market risks by the taxpayers (unlike in the private sector) Everything in govt. work is guaranteed in a sense. In the private sector if a business fails or fails to gain marketshare or sales the salaries and pensions fail as well. Not so in govt. There is no shrinking or "rightsizing" in govt. Only growth and only increases of everything all the time year after year.

So here is the real question. Do we bring public pensions and benefits in line with the private sector or do we try yo bring the private sector up to the govt. level and usher in full blown socialism?

Guest Commentary: Firefighters just want same treatment
Article Last Updated: 10/27/2007 08:28:08 AM PDT

For three years, the only statements from city representatives simply included, "it is not a financial issue, but a philosophical issue" and "The City Council is not interested." The firefighters now finally have some new information for the first time in three years with the City Council's media release. The City Council states that they do not negotiate in the press, but with their document they are, in fact, doing so by implying that an agreement may be reached if the retirement issue is set aside by the Union. The Red Bluff Firefighters Association is not a "Union," and it is simply the nine full time personnel assembled as a bargaining unit. There are no ties to organized labor.

After more than three years of patience, the Red Bluff Firefighters have found that there was no interest by the City Council for fair treatment. With no other alternative, and with overwhelming public encouragement, a petition was developed. A salary survey which was confirmed by the Human Resources Department of the City of Red Bluff using cities confirmed by the Council's consultant, Koff and Associates, and a salary survey conducted by the City of Oroville, both of which were available in the stacks of information at the petition signing sites and which are also posted on our Web site. In addition, the check stubs of a top step fire captain, the position listed on the salary surveys, were and still are available for review, simply contact Larry Snell.

1. Top step captain hourly rate is $17.73 which matches the City of Red Bluff's 7/1/07 salary schedule available at City Hall. As with other departments our size, the City of Red Bluff regularly calls its firefighters back for training and emergency calls. Your firefighters invest many more hours than most other professionals do.

2. In 2002, the firefighters and the City Council reached an agreement on a new work schedule that greatly enhanced our service to the community, and placed us on 24-hour shifts which equaled an instant 40 percent increase in work hours. Previous to this, the firefighters worked a standard 40-hour work week as most people do. It is interesting to note, that although our work hours increased by 40 percent, as a group, we are barely a few percentage points ahead of other bargaining units that did not increase their work hours at all. Therefore, we feel that it is unfair that the City Council states that the firefighters earned the highest salary increases, which completely ignores the notable increase in work hours.

3. Contrary to what the City Council may have implied, the firefighters are not the only group whose retirement is paid in full. In fact, every city employee enjoys this benefit. We are curious why the City Council seems to imply that this is exclusive to the firefighters.

4. PERS retirement schedules and service credits are similar for all city employees and approved by City Council action. The retirement contract is between the state CALPERS system and the City of Red Bluff, not the employees.

5. The City Council already approved and awarded this option of 3 percent at 50 retirement to approximately 30 police officers. Nine firefighters simply request the same option. The vast majority of fire departments on the city's survey list already provide this benefit to their personnel.

6. The police had the same retirement plan as the firefighters have now (2 percent at 50). The City Council awarded the police this exact same increased 3 percent at 50 retirement.

7. The City Council would like you to believe that the 3 percent at 50 retirement plan that we are asking for costs $190,000 per firefighter to obtain. The City Council neglected to share the 30-year time frame in their media release. The City Council also states that it will have to incur debt to finance this retirement proposal. First, the cost of the 3 percent at 50 plan is roughly $6,000 per firefighter per year, plain and simple. Why does the City Council object to this plan for nine firefighters when 30 police officers were awarded this same package several years ago? We are only asking for the same benefit that has already been granted to our hard-working police officers, nothing more.

8. The firefighters had no choice, but to reject the poor offers provided recently by the City Council. Cost of living increases of each year were not even adequately covered by these proposals and the City Council completely ignored the issue of the salary disparity between ours and other like fire departments.

Improved health insurance? The firefighters simply wish to obtain the same less expensive health insurance already awarded to the police. This less expensive insurance is simply a cheaper premium that would save the firefighters at least $400 a month in out of pocket expense. This costs the city nothing more and we ask why they have refused this.

The City Council states, "While our hearts may want to reach an agreement with this group of dedicated and valuable employees, our heads and sound judgment do not see this as a financially sound course of action." If that is the case, were they not using their heads or using financially sound judgment when the City Council awarded, by vote, the very same retirement and cheaper health insurance to the Red Bluff Police?

The firefighters are taxpayers also and appreciate sound management practices, in fact, the firefighters take great pride in, and care for millions of dollars of fire related equipment and buildings.

Contrary to what the City Council may imply, the firefighters have maintained an open mind about negotiations. The fact still remains, however, that the firefighter's salary is 40 percent below average, as confirmed by the City's Human Resources Department, using the comparable cities developed by the City Council's own consulting firm, Koff and Associates. The firefighters did not compile the cities used. The City Council also awarded 30 police officers the exact same less expensive health insurance and the exact same 3 percent at 50 retirement that the firefighters seek.

Your firefighters still simply wish to be treated fairly.

The Red Bluff Firefighters are: "A" crew: Domenic Catona, captain; Dave Carr, engineer; Matthew Shobash, engineer; "B" crew: Larry Snell, captain; Fred Agundes, engineer, John Campbell, engineer, "C" crew: Vern Raglin, captain, Brian Smalley, engineer, Jimmy Heinle, engineer.

Lakewood Accountability Action Group™ LAAG | www.LAAG.us | Lakewood, CA
A California Non Profit Association | Demanding action and accountability from local government™

No comments: