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Putting your brothers and sisters first (even when it means less money in your paychecks)

First responders depend on their coworkers every day in high-stress, emergency situations.

Now cities are depending on first responders to be the ultimate team players by asking them to accept pay cuts and other reductions in benefits to prevent their brothers and sisters from being laid-off.

We posted this Sun-Sentinel story on the IAFF Facebook page last week, which asks: “would you take a pay cut to save a co-workers’ job?”

Many expressed mixed opinions about being put in this position.  Here’s what some had to say about the issue on Facebook.

“It is unfair to put workers in this position, and it is eventually unfair to the person whose job is saved too. It's not fair that one person, or a few, should feel constantly indebted (a debt that can't necessarily be repaid) to their co-workers. That can easily create tension...and the last thing you need in a first responder situation is an ADDED level of tension...as if the job wasn't stressful enough itself.”

“I offered to do this once - said if everyone in the department worked one hour less we could save the one who was on the chopping block. Not a single other person wanted to do this. People are disappointing sometimes.”

“We did this several years back, took a 15% pay cut to save jobs! Turns out they had the money all along, got the 15% back after a year! Would never do it again!”

“Calgary fire fighters did just that in the 80s. They hired new recruits instead of taking a raise. To this day the fire fighters that were hired are still grateful.”

“Already done that, took over 20% over the last 5 years to save everybody. Now they need more, don't know how far this is going to go. We need the [staffing] on the line. Members of our department - like most - find ourselves in a Pandora's box - we either lose the young fire fighters and take rigs out of service. or we lose more of our pay and work safely.”

“The problem becomes, at what point does it end? You see so many elected officials today who use this excuse of poor finances and keep asking more and more from employees. We have seen many examples of employees conceding wages, benefits, etc., and then communities turning right around and funding pet projects, giving tax breaks to companies, etc., and then come back around the next time asking for more concessions from employees. So the question becomes, when does it stop? “While layoffs do hurt, it sometimes may be the only way to curb the constant cries for concessions. If concessions are made, I would make it known to the public that employees are doing their part instead of the smear campaign we see against public workers today.”

“Pay cuts and layoffs both hurt pension funds. It’s not just current guys on the job that they affect - it’s also the retired guys. And in a town that’s asking for "extreme" concessions at contract time, you can almost guarantee their unfunded liability is through the roof. These quick fixes hurt in the long run.”

“It's a double edged sword. You're doing 'the right thing' by saving someone's job. But you are allowing the city to exploit a weakness. They took concessions last year, let's cry poverty and ask for more concessions every year.”

“As a union leader, I absolutely expect my brothers to tow the line to keep us all employed; however, I think this tact should be of the last resort after exhausting all other options.”

“Double edge sword.... Done as a temporary fix in a downturn with set in stone remedies once things pick back up- yes. In the case of my city, NO. We have been attacked, shorted and cut so long thati the guys that get cut would be better off than those left, and the city would get what they deserve: less service! When hell is raised over a hint of paying for what they get they deserve... less. Each cut is one step closer to being a volly.”

“As a member who was on a lay off list at the end of last year, and probably again this year, I said no to any give backs or further concessions. We went 10 years without a raise, lost our step increases, lost healthcare after retiring, had our healthcare contributions raised, work more hours per pay. If you keep giving back, management will keep coming back for more and more and will threaten you with bigger and more drastic cuts. If you can come back there's has to be something to come back to!”

With unemployment reaching 9.2 percent and the global markets on edge after Standard & Poor downgraded the U.S. to  AA+ from a triple A rating – what would you do?

Comments (2) -

  • Edwin Hawkins (San Mateo County)

    8/8/2011 3:33:24 PM |

    There is nothing wrong with making concessions to avoid layoffs when the need is real.  If it must be done the employer must meet us half way by waiving their right to make layoffs for a specified time.  If the employer retains the right to layoff, then it is likely layoffs will come even after a pay cut.

  • Tristan Mundwiler (Thurston County)

    8/20/2011 6:06:38 PM |

    I agree with many of the comments written. We are members of this Union to look out for each other including, insuring our members have a job, a livable wage, and benefits. That said I believe there is a Strong effort to regress are wages and working conditions to a low not seen in many departments for some time. Before jumping to conclusions and offering concessions, ask this question. What has your administration done for your membership? What are the salaries and benefit packages of your administrations? Call them out on it, be loud talk with the press expose what in many places becomes a top heavy greed scheme. If after they to offer their concessions then offer yours. When the economy bounces back or your department’s budget improves then have an agreement to lift the concessions. Make sure they have something to work for, or you will see their wages and working conditions go up as yours continues to go down!

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