52-hour workweek for firefighters tabled
February 9, 2010 11:00 PM
The Rules Committee tabled the proposed 52-hour workweek for firefighters after lack of majority vote between Supervisor Eric Mar and Supervisor David Campos. Supervisor John Avalos proposed the measure to increase work hours from 48.7 hours per week as part of their plan to help with the $522 million deficit next year.
The proposal has not been welcomed with a lot of support. John Hanley, president of the Firefighters Union, said the firefighters are being singled out to solve the budget crisis and will be working more hours for less pay. In the past, firefighters have voluntarily given back two percent of their salary in 2009 and four percent in 2008.
"The [fire] department gives back more when the city is hurting than any other department," Hanley said.
At this point, Mindy Talmadge, Public Information Officer for the San Francisco Fire Department feels the decision was "a smart thing to do" She says, "All it takes is one big fire." According to Talmadge, aside from the workload of one fire, firefighters have to deal with the room its contents, pull ceilings and walls down and then overhaul and shovel everything up. They then have to clean up after the fire while risking exposure to toxic fumes and gases.
The San Francisco Fire Department is one of the busiest on the West Coast, receiving an average of 25.27 runs per hour. According to a report put together by members of the San Francisco Firefighter's Union, the national average is 3.52 runs per hour. Other Bay Area cities such as Berkeley receive 1.38 runs per hour and Oakland an average of 6.4 calls per hour. With the merge between the Department of Public Health and the Fire Department, and the increase in population, San Francisco saw a huge rise in the number of calls per hour. In 1996, the numbers of calls recorded were 36,731. In 2008, that number was 104,000.
"San Francisco is a West Coast city, but operates as an East Coast city," Hanley said.
According to Monique Zmuda, Deputy Controller for the City and County of San Francisco, the calculations show a savings of an estimated $7 million a month on the salaries of firefighters. The City will save money by paying the firefighters straight pay instead of overtime pay. This was also done because most of the calls are based on medical needs and not fire related.
"The Fire Department is most likely to get there before the ambulance," according to Lt. Al Pedruco of Lot 19 by Stonestown Mall, who added that ambulances were phased out of firehouses last year. According to Talmadge, ambulances do not operate out of the firehouses but are still part of the Fire Department personnel.
If the charter amendment were passed, the City would not see any savings until June 2012, when the contract of the firefighters expires. Until then, they would continue to work a 48.7 hour work week with overtime pay.
According to Supervisor Avalos' aide Raquel Redondiez, the measure is still a priority for the Supervisor, but will have to continue discussions to decide if this measure will be presented before the board again in June
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