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New Contract Prohibits Hartford Firefighters From Volunteering!

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  • New Contract Prohibits Hartford Firefighters From Volunteering!


    Copyright 2003 The Hartford Courant Company
    Hartford Courant (Connecticut)
    June 29, 2003 Sunday, 1N/5/6/7 SPORTS FINAL

    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.

    "If they are volunteers of another department, that muddies the waters because the bulk of the compensation is paid for by the employers," said Assistant Fire Chief Charles Hurley of West Hartford.

    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
    just like what the one guy in there said, What happened? Isn't this a free country?

    How can they tell a person what he/she can/can't do on there off time. Thats total bull!
    Firefighter, Volunteering since Oct 2001

    CCFA 05-04, best overall class for 2005
    "GOOD GAME!"


    • #3
      "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."
      So, I take it they can't work any overtime now?
      Steve Gallagher
      "I don't apologize for anything. When I make a mistake, I take the blame and go on from there." - Woody Hayes


      • #4
        Give me a break!

        I can't believe the Hartford FFs would accept this. Safety reasons, my A%&! The only reason why the union is for this is so the volunteer departments suffer and if they can't find replacements go paid, which in turn helps the unions make more money. I can't believe the Hartford FFs would believe this line (I hope they are smarter than this). What's next? No coaching your kids LL team (you might get hit with a ball); no boating or water-skiing, mountain climbing, driving a car, or crossing the street. Anything that might cause an injury. As long as it's legal, how can an employer dictate to an employee what they do in their free-time? Oh yeah, no more unprotected sex on your free time, how will the department know if you got HIV or HEP while on duty from a patient or off duty having some fun?

        This is such a joke. But beware Hartford FFs, if this truly is in the name of safety, you guys are going to have some pretty boring lives. The union/department will have you going home, and resting, they may even watch your diet for you...too much fat is no good. Maybe they will purchase a plastic bubble for all of you to run around in on your off time.

        Your new slogan can be: "Hartford FFs, we can't have a life outside the job!"

        All joking aside, the Hartford FFs (and any other paid FF) should take a stand and say no to this insane policy.

        I'm a volunteer firefighter, but the occupation is really irrelevant here. Can a paid police officer be a volunteer FF. Can the mayor? Can a FF skydive?



        • #5

          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.



          • #6
            I agree that the Chief has no clue and the issue is NOT safety. But...

            Before you feel to sorry for the brothers and sisters in Hartford, remember one thing. Unless the collective bargaining processin CT is radically different than in NJ, they had to vote FOR this contract to ratify it. That means they agreed to this rule.

            No tears here.


            • #7
              *Not only does it stop people from volunteering, but working as part time firefighters. There are a few people who work part time at places like Kaman Aerospace as industrial firefighters.

              *One of the reasons the Hartford Firefighters approved this contract was to prevent people from being laid off. Rumor was that if it didn't pass, the entire class that just graduated in January plus others low on the food chain would be laid off.

              *Steamer, as far as overtime goes...They are switching from a 3 days on / 3 days off schedule to a 24 hours on / 72 hours off schedule, which means they will be working 48 hours a week. Does that mean they will get 8 hours of time and a half each week? Nope, they lose out. Overtime is going to be straight time as well. The new schedule starts tomorrow (July 1).

              *We'll be losing 2 LT's unless we switch them to a non-suppression job. I know many other towns in this area are losing officers as well, including 1 town that has a chief who works for Hartford.
              Last edited by Adze39; 06-30-2003, 04:04 PM.
              IACOJ Agitator
              Fightin' Da Man Since '78!


              • #8
                This contract was approved back in May (I think...maybe earlier). Not sure why it is starting to just come into light into the media. It will be interesting to see what will happen.

                I think 1 of 2 things will basically happen as a result of the no firefighting clause in the contract.

                1) Nothing. Life will go on normally and people will stop volunteering because money is more important.


                2) Different Hartford suburbs who rely on volunteers are going to unite and try to challenge the contract in court.

                I think #1 will be more likely though.
                IACOJ Agitator
                Fightin' Da Man Since '78!


                • #9
                  A question

                  Is Connecticut a right-to-work state? The article says "members of the bargaining unit" can't be volunteers. Do you have to join the union to be on the job? I AM NOT trying to start a union bashing session here, just trying to understand the situation. Also, didn't the Department of Labor issue a ruling that Maryland career FFs could volunteer in their off time? If so, wouldn't that apply here too?

                  I'm torn on the issue. I fully understand the point about wanting to protect Hartford's interests but it seems very wrong to single out firefighting as a restricted activity. If the article paints an accurate picture, you can run a fishing boat, be a roofer, or even be a LEO like George - just not a firefighter. The fact that no other injury-prone professions are listed smells fishy to me.

                  One more thing, this work-for-us-only attitude isn't limited to career departments. A while back, someone started a thread about volunteering for multiple departments and several folks said their bylaws didn't allow dual memberships. I hate to tell ya, but it ain't no different, folks.


                  • #10
                    Most Police Officers in the Province are unable to take a second job or even Volunteer as a firefighter without special permission from their Chief. Anything that could present a "conflict" is automatically denied.


                    • #11
                      As I've seen before you are talking out of your rear end. First off the 24/72 is a 42 hour work week and changes nothing as far as overtime. The members are the ones who asked for it, it wasn't shoved down their throat. Sencond if these voly towns are going to fold up because of 2-3 members who are going to leave in 5 years I think their problems are bigger than we imagined. This doesn't go into effect until 2008. There are many depts in this country that have this clause. Not too many of them inforce it. The other issue is conflict of interest. And living in CT you know the 1996 change in worker's comp. If a firefighter (god forbid) has to go out on heart & hypertension he now has to prove it's job related. Well how the hell are you going to say Hartford is responsible if the guy is scabing in the town next door? Is that fair to Hartfrod tax payers?

                      Let me give you a hypathetical situation:
                      Lets say you own a machine shop that is union. Your employees are on strike to hit you up for better benifets, a raise, and a safer work environment. On the weekends they work for free in the shop across the street who is a direct competitor of you. You reluctently settle a contract to get your business running again. One of your guys got injured across the street working on his free time. He will be out for 6 weeks. Not only are you paying for his health insurance that they fought you for in the contract but you now have to pay someone overtime to fill his spot. This is a conflict of interest. Do you have problem with this? You should! If he was mountain biking then you would happily pay because it's his leisure time and he had an unfortunate accident.

                      Also how the heck are area towns going to challenge a contract that a city has? What business is it of theirs? These towns have the responsibility to provide fire protection to there citizens, and if they can't then maybe it's time they stop geting the free lunch and pay for it. I'm not against volunteer orginizations - I was one myself. And I also understand that a lot of communities can't justify a paid dept for various reasons such as 100 calls a year. But a town like Newington that has a small city population and an industrial tax support and the calls CAN justify it. They run more calls and have a higher risk community than half of the paid depts in this country. If they can pull it off with volunteers then thats great but to say that Hartfords contract is going to cripple the dept is crazy!

                      Chief Teal I support you 100%
                      Last edited by KeithA8; 06-30-2003, 04:58 PM.
                      IAFF member, Love this job! Remember the oath!


                      • #12
                        This is an agreement between the City of Hartford and the Hartford Firefighters. Nothing more, nothing less.

                        Roger Clemens cannot go across town to pitch for the Mets if he is not scheduled to start for the Yankees.

                        A GM worker cannot work a day shift for GM, then go across town to work for Ford or Daimler/Chrysler at night

                        If the surrounding communities want to have the services of the members of the Hartford Fire Department, they have choices..

                        a. pay Hartford to compensate for any injuries incurred by a Hartford Firefighter while volunteering in said community until the contrcat takes effect.

                        b. allow themselves to be annexed in to the City of Hartford.

                        c. contract their fire protection to the City of Hartford.

                        d. either hire firefighters or actively recruit new volunteers.

                        The particular provision of the contract does not take effect for 5 years, so there is plenty of time for contingency planning!

                        Just my 3 cents worth...Captains have to pay a little more!
                        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
                        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY


                        • #13
                          LOL...I was waiting for you to start arguing with me.

                          The overtime will be straight time per the contract, not time and a half. Talk to someone from Hartford. Then again, what do my best friend and his brother know? They only work for Hartford. Neither you nor I do. I know about the straight time thing because of them and many others.

                          The 24/72 hour schedule starts tomorrow. The volunteer thing will not happen until June 30, 2008.

                          The thing about court was hypothetical...I know you know what that means. Also, if you read before you opened your mouth you would have seen that I think that nothing is going to happen.

                          So I might be talking about of my rear end, but you are talking without reading everything. I know you think I'm anti-union and anti-this and anti-that, but if you read what I posted here you will see I didn't say whether I was for or against the contract. We're losing two people, but life will go on. I know that, they know that, and the department knows that. It won't cause us to be inoperable.

                          You ask what business is Hartford's contract to the surrounding towns? If the contract has a big impact on a town's public safety, then it is very much that town's business.
                          Last edited by Adze39; 06-30-2003, 05:49 PM.
                          IACOJ Agitator
                          Fightin' Da Man Since '78!


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by KeithA8
                            On the weekends they work for free in the shop across the street who is a direct competitor of you.
                            Thank you for identifying the root of the problem. Fire Departments are not, and should not, be "competing" against each other. Until this attitude changes, we (we being the fire service in general) will continue to be our own worst enemy.

                            I can maybe, kind of, $ort of, $ee an i$$ue w/ paid firemen volunteering IN THEIR OWN JURI$DICTION. A problem with anything el$e i$ $imply ludicrou$.

                            Mo money ... Mo money ... Mo money

                            In the word$ of P Diddy ... It'$ all about the Benjamin$, baby.

                            Stay Safe


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KeithA8
                              First off the 24/72 is a 42 hour work week
                              Over a 4-week period of time, yes.

                              For those who are trying to figure this one out, don't forget that one of their shifts will be on a Saturday going into a Sunday, meaning that that particular shift will be divided into 2 different weeks.
                              IACOJ Agitator
                              Fightin' Da Man Since '78!


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