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New Contract Prohibits Hartford FFs From Volunteering Or Working In Other Towns

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  • New Contract Prohibits Hartford FFs From Volunteering Or Working In Other Towns

    A Blow To Fire Departments
    New Contract Prohibits Hartford Firefighters From Volunteering Or Working In Other Towns

    June 29, 2003
    By THUY-DOAN LE, Hartford Courant Staff Reporter

    Newington could see a chunk of its firefighting power disappear. Vernon could lose two firefighters, and Rocky Hill has already lost one, all because of a new restriction by the Hartford Fire Department.

    "If you're going to be a firefighter in Hartford, you can only be one in Hartford," says Hartford Fire Chief Charles A. Teales Sr.

    A new restriction has left these nearby municipalities steaming.

    "I'm not very happy ...," said Newington Fire Chief James Trommer. "I don't see how they can tell someone what to do on their off time. My first reaction is it's a free world and a free country, and I don't see how you can tell me what to do on my off time."

    A new contract between the city of Hartford and the Hartford Fire Fighters Association forbids full-time firefighters to be on active duty and combat fires as volunteers elsewhere. A clause in the contract states: "... for the purposes of health and safety, members of the bargaining unit shall be prohibited from responding to fire department calls as an active member of another paid or volunteer fire department while employed for active duty with the Hartford Fire Department. Violation of this provision shall subject said employee to discipline."

    Teale said the restriction would take effect June 30, 2008, giving the volunteers and their departments time to adjust.

    "I don't have anything against volunteers, and I very often admire their dedication, but the problem I have is running the Hartford Fire Department and not knowing if the injuries or illness is sustained from one department or from another department," Teale said. "The art and science of fighting fires is very stressful to the cardiovascular system."

    When he accepted the fire chief post in Hartford three years ago, he gave up volunteering for the Blue Hills Fire Department in Bloomfield.

    The new contract clause is an effort to decrease the rate of lost time related to illnesses and injuries. If members were allowed to continue volunteering, Hartford would not be able to determine whether firefighters got hurt or sick from their city job or from volunteering, which could be costly to the city, Teale said.

    "A member of the Hartford Fire Department is given time off not to fight fires somewhere else, but to recuperate from an arduous situation," Teale said. "If you're on call all the time, you don't have time to relax."

    The "two-hatter" issue has been a long-standing sore point for the brotherhood of firefighters nationwide, causing rifts between volunteers and union members.

    Trommer said Newington would lose about half a dozen of its most veteran firefighters and make it more difficult to find daytime help.

    "I certainly understand and respect Hartford's decision, but they don't need to hurt volunteer organizations," said Newington Town Manager Paul Fetherston. "I'm hoping they would reconsider their position. I am also concerned if this is implemented that it would also hurt Hartford, who may
    need to rely on neighboring towns to back them up."

    Rocky Hill Fire Chief Joseph Kochanek called the new rule "selfish." He said if anyone got hurt in Rocky Hill, that person would be covered by the town's workers' compensation.

    "This is pretty silly. ... Everybody is a volunteer in their hometown, but they are being told that they're going to lose a lot of experienced people in the suburbs for no good reason."

    Fire Chief Robert Kelly of the Vernon Fire Department said that town would lose two key officers, one a training officer.

    "Both positions will be tough to fill, but we're going to have to. It's a shame that [Hartford] is doing this. You'd think that they'd be happy to let their men serve in the community that they live in on their off-time, which is their own time."

    Farmington has a combination of a small group of career firefighters and a large group of volunteers, none of whom is employed by the Hartford Fire Department.

    But Mary-Ellen Harper, the director of fire and rescue services, said Hartford's mandate would limit Farmington's ability to find firefighters.

    But Scott Brady, secretary and treasurer for the firefighters' union in Hartford, said the decision was no different from any other employer taking precautions with its workforce.

    "It's more of a physical deterioration," he said. "If you do this long enough, eventually parts of your body break down. The city is trying to limit its liability on injuries."

    Hartford is not the only fire department to limit its members' outside activities. Some of the larger towns and cities, including New Britain, West Hartford, Waterbury and East Hartford, have similar clauses in their contracts.

    The International Association of Firefighters' constitution prohibits union members from serving as volunteers. There are 53 local IAFF affiliates in Connecticut, said spokesman George Burke.

    "We have one main reason alone, and that is safety," Burke said. "In the case of Hartford, they were looking for a way to not see their workers' comp reduced."

    He said the clause also protects the firefighter's family. In a case several years ago in Texas, three firefighters were killed in a church fire. Two were career firefighters, but their families could not collect benefits because the firefighters had died volunteering outside their jurisdiction.

    The West Hartford Fire Department has had a no-volunteer clause in its contract since the 1980s.

    Lt. Michael O'Donnell, president of the union at West Hartford, said it's often difficult for members to sever ties with their volunteer departments.

    In West Hartford, a firefighter hired after 1986 who seeks to collect workers' compensation would have to prove that the job was the cause of the illness - a regulation that puts the burden of proof on the employee.

    Brady said that before he became a firefighter and a union officer in Hartford, he thought communities should move toward paid fire departments.

    "Response time is key. Appropriate manpower is key," he said. "Communities have to take a hard internal look at what level of protection they expect from a fire department. If two or three volunteers are taken out of each department and the departments are no more, then that is a sad statement."

  • #2

    Damn! How many times does this need to be posted????


    • #3
      Please read my response in the firefighters forum titled "New Contract Prohibits Hartford Firefighters form Volunteering" I'm sure I'll get a lot of hate mail.
      IAFF member, Love this job! Remember the oath!


      • #4
        Read mine too, and enjoy. Where is the invisible group known as the National Volunteer Fire Council????????? Doing nothing as usual, I guess.
        Never use Force! Get a Bigger Hammer.
        In memory of
        Chief Earle W. Woods, 1912 - 1997
        Asst. Chief John R. Woods Sr. 1937 - 2006

        IACOJ Budget Analyst

        I Refuse to be a Spectator. If I come to the Game, I'm Playing.



        • #5
          Originally posted by hwoods
          Read mine too, and enjoy. Where is the invisible group known as the National Volunteer Fire Council????????? Doing nothing as usual, I guess.
          What can they do about this? This is a collective bargaining issue between a City and a Union. The root of the argument is the IAFF. What is the NVFC supposed to do about this, litigate it? It would get tossed in a heartbeat.

          One indisputable fact remains: THE FIRE FIGHTERS IN HARTFORD VOTED FOR THIS CONTRACT! If a guy felt strongly that he wanted to continue to volunteer, he could cast a NO vote. However, it appears that things like salary, benefits and work conditions were more important to them. Since those things feed my family, I would have voted for the contract, too.

          If any of you were offered a 24 on/72 off schedule, you would have voted for it, too.


          • #6
            Amen George
            "Often Tested, Always Faithful, Brothers Forever"

            Once a Marine, Always a Marine

            I got the best of both worlds- Firefighter and Marine


            • #7
              Hartford Union Contract Prohibiting Volunteering is Unconscionable

              I came across this statement on the NVFC Website.

              Hartford Union Contract Prohibiting Volunteering is Unconscionable
              By Philip C. Stittleburg, NVFC Chairman

              WASHINGTON, DC (July 1, 2003) -- On behalf of volunteer firefighters across the country, I condemn in the strongest possible terms the new contract between the city of Hartford, Connecticut and the Hartford Fire Fighters Association forbidding full-time firefighters to serve as volunteers in their home communities. It is amazing that in a time when there is a revived push led by President Bush for volunteerism across the country, the city of Hartford and the local union have the gall to try to tell firefighters they cannot serve their local communities during off-duty hours.

              We are told by advocates of this policy that it is a "health and safety issue" and that firefighters are given time off to recoup and relax. I haven't heard anything about a clause in the agreement barring firefighters from strenuous second jobs in construction and other trades. There appears to be nothing in the contract prohibiting a Hartford firefighter from partaking in potentially dangerous hobbies like skiing or skydiving. What about career firefighters who work or volunteer for state or local fire training agencies? Are they not allowed to educate fellow firefighters during their off-duty hours?

              We are told that union and city leadership are worried that families will not be able to collect benefits because the firefighters may be injured or killed volunteering outside the jurisdiction of their employer. In reality, a large majority of volunteer fire departments have their own benefits that would cover the firefighter or their family. In fact, the likelihood of that firefighter being covered is much greater in a volunteer fire company than in some other part-time job.

              We have also constantly been assured by union leadership that the "two-hatter" issue is only about possible loss of union membership and that a career firefighter's employment or benefits are not in jeopardy if they continue to serve their hometowns as volunteers. Wrong again. The Hartford contract, and others like it across the country, clearly states that firefighters who volunteer to save lives and property with volunteer fire departments will face disciplinary action from his or her employer, not just the union.

              Finally, time and time again we are told that anti-volunteer efforts by local unions are limited to just a few areas of the country and the friction is based on local disputes and personalities. However, this issue has surfaced in Maryland, Virginia, New York, California, Oregon, Washington State, Florida, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ontario, Canada and now Connecticut. It appears to me that this is not a "local" issue.

              Well, enough is enough. The leadership of the volunteer fire service, including myself, are sick of beating around the bush and not exposing this policy for what it is -- an organized campaign against the volunteer fire service aimed at destroying our ranks in the hope of increasing union membership and power.

              I have never heard of a case where a volunteer firefighter was discouraged from pursuing a career in the paid fire and emergency services. In fact, it is encouraged. So why do big labor bosses strong arm their members to keep them from remaining affiliated with the departments in which they started?

              As this campaign expands, the results will be devastating to the protection of communities in suburban and rural areas. These departments will surely lose firefighters, many of whom play key roles in firefighter training and safety.

              Nobody should have the right to tell firefighters how they should or should not spend their off-duty time, which is their own time, especially when they are spending that time doing good in their community. I call on firefighters across this country to steadfastly fight these abominable union actions wherever they may arise. I furthermore urge firefighters to educate their elected officials at all levels of government about the destructive effects this policy will have on communities nationwide.

              Hartford Union Contract Prohibiting Volunteering is Unconscionable


              • #8
                Nice letter. Was it sent anywhere other than being posted on a site that no one has to go to and no one other than NVFC members would see? If not, then it's pointless. If it was, then good.
                "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


                • #9
                  You're right Bones. Sending that to the Hartford Courant might get it noticed, but not a website that no one in Hartford has any reason to go to.

                  Preaching to the choir rarely wins converts.


                  • #10
                    Eating a piece of pizza could be harmful to your health and may cause obesity

                    Everyone is missing the point its there contract if they choose not to volunteer than who are you to question that. You dont pay there bills, feed thier family and you certainly dont work for Hartford. Since I have started let me say this if my employer told me that I couldn't swim this summer or I'll be suspended what do you think I would do ?(no brainer) I wouldn't swim, they give me a pay check. This issue is different than the IAFF membership rules also....that has to do with(IAFF) membership requirements to be in the union..this has to do with an employer asking for there employees not to do a certain thing such as volunteering for another FD, which was approved by both ie; A CONTRACT!

                    Do you think Philip C. Stittleburg, NVFC Chairman would stop volunteering if they told him not to swim also.
                    IACOJ Membership 2002

                    Mike IAFF

                    The beatings will continue until the morale improves


                    • #11
                      No Mike, not missing the point at all. And I am not arguing for or against what Hartford FD did. As you said, I'm not there, it's not my problem. I don't like the wording in it, I don't like the "feeling" I get from it, and I stated that. I am not expecting my opinion to change anyone's mind, I'm just simply saying I don't like it. Hartford FD agreed to it. They made their choice and I am sure they had very good reasons to choose it. It's their's to deal with. I have no problem with that. I just don't like seeing Volunteer Firefighting being targeted, and it was, plain and simple. I would expect the NVFC to also not like volunteer firefighting to be targeted, and would expect them to let that be known. I would not expect them to get Hartford FD to change their contract as that's not NVFC's job. And if I see another article about a contract that prohibits volunteer firefighting, I will make the same comments.

                      Stay Safe.
                      "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?


                      • #12
                        i've seen several paid departments around here ban smoking on or off duty. granted this was established by the administration but in hartford it was voted on by the firefighters.
                        NREMT-P\ Reserve Volunteer Firefighter\Reserve Police Officer
                        IACOJ Attack

                        Experts built the Titanic, amateurs built the Ark.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by GeorgeWendtCFI

                          If a guy felt strongly that he wanted to continue to volunteer, he could cast a NO vote.
                          hmmm, do you really believe this? not that we have peer pressure in the fire service, but if i was a union member, i would feel really uncomfortable voting no on a contract, because the reason I would be voting NO would be going against my union's purpose. and your fellow FFs might then think your interests and the unions interests aren't the same, which could have informal reprocussions at the fire house.

                          not to mention that if 10% of the union members are also volunteers, only those 10% would be affected by this ban. furthermore, the other 90% would vote for it, since they aren't affected by the rule, and they are satisfied with everything else.

                          I don't know the numbers, but i don't think it's as cut and dry as you think it is.
                          If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!



                          • #14
                            Ok Mr Chairman...the NVFC isn't happy about this...so what are you going to do about it? Probably absolutely NOTHING, like usual.
                            IACOJ Agitator
                            Fightin' Da Man Since '78!


                            • #15
                              hmmm, do you really believe this?
                              Your new. Let me explain something to you.

                              I NEVER post something that:

                              1. Isn't a fact or
                              2. Isn't my absolute fervent belief.


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