Mayor Rick Gray from Lancaster, Pennsylvania says he is having the city prepare a lawsuit against IAFF Local 319 over what he says is harassment by union members against volunteer firefighters with companies that respond mutual aid into the city. Gray is also threatening disciplinary action. The mayor believes undermining mutual aid agreements impacts the safety of the citizens.
The chief of Manheim Township Fire Department says two of his volunteer, who are also career firefighters (we are told not in the City of Lancaster), have taken an indefinite leave of absence. Chief Rick Kane says he has suspended a mutual aid agreement with Lancaster because of the problem.
According to LancasterOnline.com the current and future union president say they are unaware of any harassment and point out they also did not know of any mutual aid agreements. Gray says those agreements aren’t in writing, but are verbal. Battalion Chief Ken Barton, president until the first of the year, believes the city is violating a 1997 arbitration ruling that says they can’t use volunteers unless they first call in off-duty firefighters.
Apparently what has brought this to a head is the breakdown of the city’s two ladder trucks with no replacements in sight. The truck work is now being handled by mutual aid companies.
FireTruckBlog.com’s Glenn Usdin, in looking at the dispute, the economic realities and the equipment issues brings up the point that it is important to have a “Plan B in place for emergency replacement of necessary apparatus”. Click here for Glenn’s commentary.
When fire raged in the first block of North Plum Street early Monday morning, four city firefighters were there in less than a minute.
The house was right behind the city’s fire Station 3. But after the first dozen on-duty city firefighters were at the scene, the next to arrive were firefighters from surrounding municipalities.
One woman died and two children were critically injured, but without the aid of firefighters from Lancaster Township, Lafayette and Millersville fire companies, the situation could have been worse, said city fire Chief Tim Gregg.
Without their help, the flames might have spread down the row of narrow homes, he said.
Which is why Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray was angry Tuesday at what he believes are efforts by some city firefighters to undermine mutual aid agreements between the city and surrounding municipalities.
Gray said some city firefighters have harassed volunteers who have come into the city.
Barton said he believes the city is overusing the volunteers to supplement the paid fire bureau.
“We’re being cut more and more and more, and they want to rely on somebody else come in and save our butt,” he said.
Kane said he believes the volunteers are caught in the middle of a labor dispute between the city administration and the union.
Also on STATter911 …
- Lancaster fire union official’s testimony: Volunteers are unreliable & you can’t count on them to protect your life. – March 13, 2012
- Lancaster fire union says Mayor’s report took comments about volunteers out of context. Read IAFF Local 319′s response. – March 13, 2012
- Bah! Humbug! Did DC’s mayor play Scrooge for cops & firefighters over the holidays leaving them out of the holiday bonus? Vince Gray says no. Unions say yes. – December 25, 2012
- UPDATED: Berlin, MD cuts all funds to volunteer fire company. Cites hostile work conditions including homosexual slurs against career medics. VFC says it’s a control issue. – August 21, 2012
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