DOWNEY - The city of Downey has reached an agreement with the union representing Downey firefighters.The contract, ratified Monday by the City Council on a 4-1 vote, features no increases in salary or benefits but authorizes an 18-month trial period for a "48/96" work schedule in which firefighters work a scheduled shift of two consecutive days of 24 hours on duty followed by four consecutive days off. According to fire chief Lonnie Croom, the new work schedule will be examined at scheduled intervals to monitor firefighter fatigue, use of sick leave and disconnect with fellow firefighters. "Obviously there is some concern with the new schedule but we're going to monitor it," Croom said. If the 48/96 schedule is abandoned after the trial period, the fire department will revert back to the more traditional "Kelly Schedule." In the Kelly Schedule, firefighters work a 24-hour shift, followed by 24 hours off duty, another 24-hour work shift, followed by 24 hours off duty, one more 24-hour shift, and followed by four days off duty. Councilman Mario Guerra cast the lone dissenting vote against the contract. "I have no right as a lay person to vote on this," Guerra said. "The chief should be the one to make decisions on a work schedule." Similar to other agreements recently reached between the city and local bargaining units, the contract, which covers 62 captains, firefighters and fire engineers, limits new hires to a "second tier" retirement formula in which employees pay the full 9% member contribution toward CalPERS, the state's pension system. New employees are also limited to a Kaiser Medical HMO Plan medical coverage. "The new (Memorandum of Understanding) was negotiated with mutual intent to avoid increased personnel costs and to maintain current pay and benefits for existing employees during a period of an uncertain economy," human resources director Irma Youssefieh wrote in a report to the City Council.
********** Published: June 16, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 9