Posts Tagged San Bernardino Fire Department

San Bernardino city wins in battle against filing by firefighters

An interesting article from about the City of San Bernardino wanting to contract for fire services after their municipal bankruptcy.

A federal judge refused a request Thursday, Aug. 6, from San Bernardino city firefighters to stop the city from moving forward with plans to contract out for fire services. The proposal to turn over the fire department to an outside agency is a key element of the city’s bankruptcy plan, which relies heavily on outsourcing some city functions.

The city council is set to consider proposals from the San Bernardino County Fire Department and a private firm at its Aug. 24 meeting. City officials will recommend that the council choose the county [according to] City Manager Allen Parker.

The San Bernardino City Professional Firefighters filed an emergency request Wednesday, Aug. 5, asking for a temporary restraining order to stop the city. Corey Glave, an attorney for the firefighters union, said the group sought the emergency stay to ensure that the city maintained the status quo and eliminated any threat of firefighters losing their jobs before the bankruptcy court had a chance to rule on the issue.

During Thursday’s hearing in U.S. District Court in Riverside, Judge Meredith Jury said she did not believe the union had shown that the situation rose to the level of an emergency. For that to occur, the city would have had to actually issue layoff notices, she said. Jury noted this was the first emergency request she’d received in the three years since the city filed for bankruptcy and she preferred a process that allowed more time for legal arguments to be made and considered.

The judge agreed to consider the union’s request at a Sept. 17 hearing, where she will also take up the issue of whether the city is obligated to negotiate with the union about outsourcing.

Paul Glassman, San Bernardino’s bankruptcy attorney, said the city does not anticipate laying anyone off before that date.

This was the fire union’s second attempt to block the contracting plan. Last month, Jury ruled that the city charter did not prevent San Bernardino from doing so, which the union argued was the case.

City officials say the contracting proposal requires that existing firefighters have the opportunity to stay on but the union noted that it’s not a guarantee they’ll all have jobs.

Meanwhile, her decision allows the city to make a selection and begin negotiations. If the council chooses the county, it will file an application Sept. 1 with the Local Agency Formation Commission for the city to be absorbed by the fire district. The process would involve hearings before the agency, which decides on boundary changes, that would take several months.

A previous post on this issue is HERE

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San Bernardino city wins in battle against firefighter contract

From the San Bernardino Sun comes an interesting article about the city’s bankruptcy proceedings and rulings related to the contract with firefighters:

San Bernardino officials’ budget-balancing efforts won two victories in U.S. Bankruptcy Court … at the expense of the firefighters union. In a tentative ruling, Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury agreed to reject the current bargaining agreement between firefighters and the city, allowing the city to impose a new contract of its choosing.

The city suggested in papers to the court that part of the reason to reject the existing contract was so it could replace a constant staffing model with minimum staffing — in essence, giving management the option of leaving some firefighter positions unfilled for a shift if a firefighter doesn’t come to work, reducing the more than $4 million in overtime the city pays firefighters most years. Another expected reason was continuing to make firefighters pay the retirement contributions the city handled until January 2013, reducing the employees’ take-home pay by nearly 14 percent.

But City Manager Allen Parker said after the court hearing that there weren’t plans to impose a new contract immediately after rejecting the current one, theoretically leaving a void.

Jury made clear that she wasn’t agreeing to the specifics of any potential imposition. And she said that during bankruptcy the city can’t break “substantive law,” including the city charter provision that prevents cutting public safety salaries (but which is on November’s ballot for possible repeal).

Previous cases don’t establish how long the imposed contract can be used, Jury said.

“I said it’s interim, but I don’t know how long interim is,” she said. “I think until a new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated or the plan (to exit bankruptcy) is approved.”

In a separate ruling Thursday, Jury rejected the firefighter union’s motion for relief from the stay preventing anyone from suing the city while it’s in bankruptcy. Firefighters’ attorneys want to argue in state court that the city hadn’t followed state law in its negotiations. Still undecided are separate motions for relief from the stay from the police and fire unions after contracts were imposed on those unions in January 2013.

The city’s attorneys will submit proposed wording of the order …, giving firefighters’ union attorneys until {September 17] to object or file an alternative proposal before a hearing Sept. 19 to finalize the order.

But after Jury spent nearly an hour explaining her decision, the reasoning for it and related issues, firefighters’ attorney Brian Goodrich submitted to the decision while reserving the right to appeal it.

The firefighters’ objection consisted mainly of arguments against the admissability of evidence the city submitted, which Jury said were mostly not legitimate. They will have the chance to cross-examine the city’s financial consultant, Michael Busch of Urban Futures, who produced most of the declarations the city used to establish that its current contract is a “burden.”

Also Thursday, the city’s bankruptcy attorney, Paul Glassman, said the city had rescinded two firefighter layoff notices approved as part of the budget but objected to by the firefighters’ union. Four demotions in the Fire Department are working their way through the city’s appeals process.

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