Note From Chief Bradley: MOFD and Firefighter's Union at Impasse

We'll be following up on MOFD negotiations with the firefighter's union this week, but wanted to present Chief Bradley's advance notice of an impasse in negotiations.


Moraga-Orinda Fire District Chief Randy Bradley says there are two proposals in front of the firefighter's union Local 1230 but that, so far, negotiations have stalled and no successor agreement for the Memorandum of Understanding which expired in Jan. 2010 has been reached.

In a release from Bradley forwarded to Patch on Friday, the chief says MOFD's priorities continue to be provision of service to the citizens of the district -- while addressing "unfunded liabilities caused by the spiraling cost of health and retiree health benefits, to limit health benefit costs, to move future employees to a more sustainable pension benefit formula, and to provide an overall level of compensation that is within the District’s financial constraints and budget."

A tall order. We'll be covering the progress of these negotiations in coming weeks.

Dennis Wanken July 03, 2012 at 03:49 AM
For discussion purposes, do you have a name ?
2nd Generation Moraga July 03, 2012 at 03:54 AM
First name: 2nd Middle Name Generation Last name: Moraga See my profile for more background info -
Diana Stephens July 03, 2012 at 04:18 AM
So, I guess neither of you is qualified or interested in running for the Division 2 Board of Director's seat. What we need is someone with a problem solving mindset.
Dennis Wanken July 03, 2012 at 05:17 AM
Diane - Having served 5 years on the Moraga School Board as well as unsuccessfully running for the Moraga Town Council twice, I think it is time for a younger and more energetic person to run against Fred Weil for the MOFD. Unlike Fred Weil (who is again running for the seat), I feel it is time for me to get off the public stage and let the next generation participate in the public policy process.
lamorinda dude July 03, 2012 at 07:10 AM
Thanks Ms Mairana and Mr. Cohn for your input. Thanks to Part time as well. Can either of you folks compare the salaries of firefighters from SF, Berkeley, MOFD, Contra Costa, San Ramon? And if so, how much do these firefighters pay into their benefits versus employee costs?
Diana Stephens July 03, 2012 at 02:19 PM
Know anybody you think would make a good candidate?
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night "1) MOFD Firefighters are in fact not paid a base salary of $111,000." The answer to this is complicated and takes more than the Patch's 1,500 character limit so bear with me (JD). A) There is "base salary" and there is "Base Salary". In addition to what is considered "base" are contractual add-ons for things like holiday pay and other items I do not know the details of. There are several add-ons including Holiday Pay, FLSA and FRA (which I do know the meanings of; they were included in data I received from MOFD. In total they add up to 14-15% of "base salary". So what I call "Base Salary" is 114% of "base salary". B) Part-Time is obviously a firefighter who spends part of his/her time serving the community as a firefighter. I have no idea what grade he/she is but the $111,000 is an average. The range is from $132,000 for the highest paid Captain-Paramedic-I (of which there are 5) and $86,000 for the lowest paid Firefighter . (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:23 PM
C) According to the Contra Costa Times public employee data base, for 2011 there 58 firefighters employed by MOFD. Base salaries indicate that some were not on the payroll for a full year so I estimated they represented 56 full time employees. The total "base salary" earned was $5,446,572 (an average of $97,116) and the total "add-on" (the data base termed it "Other") was $770,044 (an average of $13,730). The average "Base Salary" is the sum of these, $110,846, which I rounded up to $111,000. D) If Part-Time has reason to doubt the Times' data base, or my analysis of this data base, or has other information and analysis, he/she should definitely share this information with the community as I have shared what I have developed. Just saying "it ain't so" is not substantive nor useful. (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:25 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night "2) MOFD Firefighters contribute over 26% of their pay into their retirement - 17+ % more than departments that are in PERS." (by PERS he/she is referring to the large state pension plan CalPERS) Again - this is a complex issue thus a two-part response. According to Dan Borenstein's presentation in Orinda on 6/21, MOFD employees do contribute, on average, 24% of their base salary (unclear if this is "base" or "Base") so it is very likely that PartTime pays 26%. However, this is funding a retirement starting at age 50 that is 100% of final year's salary. The 100% is based on an accrual of 3 percent per year for 30 years plus a 10% "spike" at the end (the pension plan's assumption; not my commentary). (continues)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:26 PM
(part 2) I believe that the pension plan also assumes that during the employee's working life his salary will increase (merit and COLA increases) at 6.5% and after retirement COLA adjustments will be 3.5%. I also believe that an actuarial life span is 80 years so in 30 years an employee has to save enough money to support him/her for the next 30 years at a level of his/her final year's earnings. That requires a massive amount of savings. According to Borenstein, in addition to the 24% that the employees are contributing the pension plan, the employer is contributing 67% of base salary. If this were a private company with an employee funded 401(k), that would mean that the employee would have to be putting 48% of his/her salary into savings. If the base we are talking about is the $111,000 "Base" and the employee is putting in $27,000 and the employer is putting in $74,000; that is equivalent to a private employee being paid $212,000 and putting $101,000 into savings. This far exceeds allowable 401(k) funding limits ($50,000). (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night "3) MOFD Firefighters have not received raises in any of their compensation/benefits in many years" My understanding is that other groups of firefighters (ConFire) have recently taken salary and benefit cuts and according to Lisa Vorderbrueggen's column last Sunday in the Times, East County firefighters receive 40% less than other firefighters in the county. Possibly "no raise" is a good deal compared to what others are receiving. "4) The citizens of Moraga & Orinda receive a better than average service then most communities in the entire Bay Area" I have never heard complaints, nor have I made any, about MOFD service. I assume service quality is fine. I should point out that 35% of all code-3 (highest priority) incidents in Orinda are not responded to within the 6 minute MOFD and industry response time target and Moraga experiences a 25% deficit. But this is not due to poor performance on the part of the firefighters, it is based on how the district is managed. (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night. "5) MOFD Firefighters are in the lower half of average base pay of all fire departments in the bay area." I do not have the data on this and encourage Part-Time to share that data with the rest of the community. I do warn that when presenting "comparable" data that a true "apples-to-apples" comparison be made. As I pointed out, even the Times' data base, which I believe is accurate, did not paint the entire picture by excluding several elements of current costs plus the "elephant in the room", underfunded pensions and unfunded retiree medical liabilities. " 6) San Francisco Firefighters do not start at $49,000 per year." I believe that. (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night. "7) MOFD Firefighters are not the cause of the problem, they show up to work and provide an excellent level of service to citizens who for the most part appreciate them. I wonder if Mr. Wanken, Mr. Nicholson, Ms. Maiorana, Mr. F, or Mr. Cohn have ever received care/service from the firefighters of the MOFD?" I agree that the firefighters are not the problem, per se, but I am sure that more than one, including former Chief Nowicki who retired at $240,000 per year plus medical, has said to him/herself "this is too good to be true". At one point in time I heard at consecutive MOFD board meetings (A) we have to pay these salaries and benefits to retain employees and (B) we have a stack of applications for reserve firefighters reaching the ceiling. Not surprising that a lot of people want to "get into the system". As for experiencing MOFD service. Fortunately not, but I am sure it will be fine. However, a colleague of mine who had received service at one point in time and wrote a letter of appreciation to the District for that service, was called out by an official of the District at a public meeting for daring to criticize the District he had actually received service from. This is not a good attitude for public servants to take. So what is Part-Time's point (7)? (continued)
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:29 PM
Responding to PartTime's statement at 6:51 last night. "I can assure you the costs associated with their job are far more than that of their risk of death due to fire or "heart attack while chilling at the station house". Psychological effects and divorce, separation from their family and yes death from several factors (cancer, cardiac, burns) to name a few." Very possibly but I think some facts are in order to make your point. I was given some cancer statistics once. The risk of one type of cancer was twice the normal population. But with some digging it appears that the normal risk of that cancer is incredibly small so two times an incredibly small number is still an incredibly small number. First of all, this is an insurance problem. The guy who actually gets the cancer should be compensated, not his workmates who don't and split up the pension he never received. Second, the bottom line is, firefighters are not in the "top ten most dangerous jobs" list (because they are trained to solve problems and not become part of the problem) and they have a longer life expectancy than normal (probably because they are generally more fit than the average American). Do they have a taxing job? Sure, at times. Do others have taxing jobs? Yes. Do firefighter, at the same time, have it pretty good? Sure again. Does everyone who has a taxing job earn / cost $270,000 per year? Does MOFD have the money to pay this much. I don't think so.
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Finally to PartTime: I am not anti-firefighter and I am definitely pro-emergency service (25 years as an EMT-Ski Patroler). But rational compensation for service needs to be re-established in our "post-boom" economy.
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I do not have that info. I once saw a comparison provide by MOFD which they should make public but as I commented to PartTime, a true apples-to-apples comparison needs to include many elements that most are not willing to admit are employee compensation expenses.
Dennis Wanken July 03, 2012 at 04:35 PM
Dear Steve - If you keep posting these comments, I may just change my mind about running against Fred Weil for the District 2 MOFD seat.
Chris Nicholson July 03, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Once again, I am in awe of Steve's depth of knowledge on these issues. Please run for office.
Diana Stephens July 03, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Unfortunately, to "the powers that be," Steve is toxic, despite his wealth of knowledge. But if you live in Division 2 (Campo & Rheem generally), please do consider running yourself or being campaign manager for someone you think would be a benefit to the District. This is a participatory democracy, so if people don't participate they're stuck with what they get.
Eastofthehills July 03, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Actually both your houses burn; if my dried piles of hippie compost light up my neighbors house would light up too. That being said I have a gardener to take care of that stuff. I just tell him to trim it all back and yes I get that silly letter every year too.
Diana Stephens July 03, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Wow. It suddenly got very quiet, very quickly in this chat room.
Steve Cohn July 03, 2012 at 11:31 PM
Someone else has already committed to run in my division (Dick Olsen's former division, 3). Steve Anderson so far has the endorsement of the majority of the Orinda City Council. There is at least one candidate running in Brook Mancinelli's North Orinda Division 5. Alex Evans, currently chair of the Infrastructure Commission, has the endorsement of the entire Orinda Council. Now you need someone to stand up in Moraga's Division 2 (Rheem Valley north of St Mary's and west of Moraga Rd / north of Corliss - see www.mofd.org/board/weil) to get a majority of new blood in the District to deal with the $700 million in liabilities (but don't let that scare you - they're spread out over 60 years).
Kelley Dwyer July 15, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop July 15, 2012 at 07:30 PM
As I have yet to been able to correlate the need for a substantive hierarchy in the MOFD when compared to the 'real world' dangers of urban Fire Departments, wish someone can explain to me why we need so many 'officers' with so few 'firemen'. The day to day life of a fireman, in terms of actual time spent, is something like this: "The work schedule of a firefighter consists of two 24-hour days per week, for an average of 8 days per month. With this schedule, a firefighter has an average of 5 days off per week." This amounts essentially to the antithesis of a 'normal' 40 hour/8hr/day job. A third of that time is spent asleep (but on call), the remainder is spent training, maintaining equipment, etc.(I assume) and the next largest allotment of time is Medical-related response (no fire involved) and lastly they respond to a few fires of all sort, i.e. vehicular, grass and other non-structure, and finally, structural fires. These are essentially paramedics that also are trained and equipped to suppress fires. Lots of time to make extra $$. The easiest is overtime. Filling in for vacation and sickness absences along with 'training' that is scheduled on their (many) days off. A real gold mine. Then, the second career: Many of them are real estate agents, salesmen, ambulance drivers, accountants, landscapers, contractors, attorneys, you name it. Who wouldn't want to be a fireman? Time for a global revamp of the traditional way of doing this? WAY past time!!!!
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop July 15, 2012 at 08:48 PM
!500 is just too little for some subjects: And, 99.7% of all firemen that successfully complete their probationary period avoid ever being laid off. Or 00.03% lose their job via force reduction. Or, one out of every three hundred and thirty-three hired will, on average, lose their job to lay off. The educational requirement is a GED Steve Cohn has provided what amounts to an objective, detailed, precisely analytical look inside this arcane, vastly expensive Golden Cow of a public entity. He has done this on his own time, with no compensation, and I am hugely impressed and grateful to him. This has nothing to do with discounting or in any way demeaning the social value of our Medical Response or fire suppression capabilities. They, when needed, are essential to some of our lives. But can we afford the system as structured? It may be as simple as redefining the firefighter's role. For example, it could be combined with other functionalities in the County workforce. Maintenance workers, field inspectors, and any number of office bound occupations might be expanded to include emergency response. Just a thought, from the hip on a moment's notice, but I see a glimmering of an idea worth of exploration whereby the 'down time' of the fire fighter might be put to use in as yet unimagined ways.
Chris F. July 15, 2012 at 10:27 PM
I have said it before, Fire all of them and hire new appreciative fire department with pay scales and benifits that fit todays economy.
Fritz 'Congodog' Stoop July 15, 2012 at 11:21 PM
Chief, time for innovation rather than duplicity. Exposing your "relentless, inspiring' attempts through the media is unethical and transparent in the world of negotiations. You want to impress, try suggesting new scheduling schemes, or in light of the already peculiar schedule format, let's talk about the elimination of overtime pay, everything is straight time. Having a scheme that pays one to sleep or to be endlessly trained in redundant subject matter has got to be difficult to defend. Anyone notice this "recession" is atypical in that the recovery will not be a simple reattachment to an endlessly upward growth condition. We have reached a cathartic economic anomaly in that the growth rate has stalled while realistic economic forces struggle to contramand the artificially manipulated real estate market and the fallout from the insane, unsecured investment gimmicks invented by unscrupulous 'bankers' playing with other people's money. Facebook, a company (sic) that produces and offers essentially NOTHING of value, had stutter-start IPO that, as a reality check of enormous proportions, is a trend just setting sail. Nearly 50 million (of 300) Americans struggle below at or below the poverty line and this relatively simple, unsophisticated part time job pays its lowest echelon nearly 6-7 times that in salary and benefits. And pays retirees numbers described in fractions of a million. This party better be over, and soon!
Steve Cohn July 16, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I am not sure what @ Kelley's point is (or the point of the posting he referred to). That firefighters are not getting credit for the amount they are putting into their own savings plan or that they are not getting paid enough? The Contra Costa Times data base (it is not a county data base) shows (for MOFD, the only agency I track) that the average firefighter gets $110,000 in base salary (including "other" which is a contractual addition to base) , $25,000 in overtime, and MOFD contributes $29,000 to the pension plan (27% of base). MOFD is paying each firefighter a total of $139,000 (base plus pension) plus giving them the ability to earn an additional $25,000 in overtime. The pension plan says that the employer plus the employee have to contribute about $55,000 to keep the plan solvent. This means that the employee must add 24% of base salary to the employers 27%. Is the cost of the pension plan, which is based on the benefits the firefighters negotiated, reasonable? (continued)
Steve Cohn July 16, 2012 at 08:51 PM
Based on the pension plans assumptions (retirement benefit of 3% of final year's wage for every year worked; retirement at 50; 6% salary increase per year while working; 3.5% cost of living increase after work ceases; 7.75% asset earning rate), a worker would have to put 40% of his salary into savings for 30 years to live off those savings for the next 30 years with a continued 3.5% annual benefit increase. But if asset earning rates dropped to 6%, that 40% contribution would have to be increased to 65%. Asset rates had been earning at the 7.75% rate up to 2008 but over the past 10 years they have averaged only about 6%. To make up for this drop, even assuming that they will return to the 7.75% level, takes a 50% ongoing contribution. And that is what is being made: 27% by the employer and 24% by the employee. If earning rates continue at 6%, as some think they will, that 50% is going to have to increase to 65% if benefits are not adjusted. It is expensive to only work half of your adult life and keep getting paid at your peak salary level for the second half. But even with their pension contribution, firefighters are still taking home $110,000 by covering their pension contribution with overtime pay earned by working approximately 20 days extra each year on top of the 122 days worked (excluding vacation and sick days taken). Again, what is @ Kelley's point. That this is not enough?
Janet Maiorana July 17, 2012 at 06:04 PM
Kudos to Steve Cohn. While we opine, Steve gives us facts we would never have been able to uncover. Now that we have the facts, it is up to taxpayers to step up to the plate and get involved. I hate to think what will happen if taxpayer do nothing.


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