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Moraga-Orinda Fire District Declares Impasse with Firefighter Union

Representatives from United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County say the proposed pay cut needed to maintain would burden its members.

Moraga-Orinda Fire District logo
Moraga-Orinda Fire District logo
By Bay City News—

After more than three years of unsuccessful contract negotiations, the Moraga-Orinda Fire District has declared an impasse with its firefighter union.

At issue is a proposed pay cut for firefighters that fire district officials say is needed to keep the struggling fire district afloat but representatives from United Professional Firefighters of Contra Costa County maintain would burden its members.

"It is now a sad reality that there is no way to ensure the protection of our community without some adjustment to the compensation packages paid to our hardworking, professional firefighters," Kathy Famulener, director of the district's board of directors said in an email.

The board declared the impasse on Tuesday after presenting the union with its "last, best and final offer," according to fire district Chief Stephen Healy.

Healy declined to comment on what led to the deadlock but said the district is "committed to getting a deal with our firefighters and we're going to do everything we can do get a deal."

The chief said he did not know when negotiations would resume.

Union leaders say a state panel will likely be called to speak with both fire district and union representatives during a legally obligated fact-finding process.

Leaders from the union, which is not allowed to strike, say they are hopeful that a state-monitored mediation process will yield a contract they can accept.

Vince Wells, president of the firefighters union, said the district's 59 firefighters and firefighter-paramedics have gone without a cost-of-living raise for more than five years and have covered all health care cost increases over the past three years.

In a statement, Wells said the fire district board's "frivolous spending on ideas that were not well thought out" and "excessive spending on equipment and programs" were among the reasons for the fire district's current problems.

According to district officials, the district's general fund is primarily used to cover the cost of union employee contracts and is now borrowing from the district's capital fund to stay in the black.

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Chris Nicholson February 03, 2014 at 09:45 PM
Another reason why bankruptcy isn't (yet) a likely option: presumably the Board would be compelled to bring in all discretionary revenue to to remain solvent and satisfy its obligations. At some level, running a deficit and putting themselves into a liquidity crunch by NOT calling down this money seems to be yet another mis-step. How can they leave money on the table and yet not have enough to pay their bills?
LamorindaMan February 04, 2014 at 10:45 AM
Voters should be given the option to disband MOFD.
Steve Cohn February 04, 2014 at 11:13 AM
Chris - I agree. I just hope they don't decide to spend their way out of the crisis on the backs of the Moraga taxpayers as opposed to saving their way out. Despite the fact that West Lafayette may not be the safest place in the County right now, Lafayette is limping along with 6 firefighters for 24,000 residents and has yet to burst into flames. Does MOFD need 17 firefighters for 34,000 residents? Lamorindaman - unless you can talk the City/Town Councils into taking on MOFD's $90 million of debt (doesn't matter that it is their taxpayers' debt in either case) or can get several thousand signatures from either Orinda or Moraga voters, it will never happen. It's not like this is a dog park or something important.
Tim February 04, 2014 at 11:40 AM
OrindaCARES and MOFD presented how they justify the cost/funding allocation using first due maps and natural dividing lines. It's in Mr. Cohn's research. The important point is that funding equality can be sliced and diced in many ways. Mr. Cohn's report goes through an impressive amount of data to arrive at Orinda getting hosed because they pay too much per firefighter. I thought the shared service analysis was interesting in that it introduced a ton of assumptions on cost and concluded that shared services should fall within the "uncompensated mutual aid". Why is that interesting? Because Moraga provides more net service to Orinda using Moraga based firefighters.
Steve Cohn February 04, 2014 at 12:44 PM
With all due respect, Tim, you have not done your homework. The First Responder maps presented first by Chief Nowicki to the first Tri-Agency Committee and then by Chief Bradley to the second Tri-Agency Committee and finally by OrindaCares are, at best, an interesting historical artifact. To the best of my knowledge, units are no longer dispatched, and have not for some period of time including the times the MOFD Chiefs presented these maps to the representatives of Orinda and Moraga on the Tri-Agency Committees, on the basis of where incidents occur on a map. Instead, the ConFire dispatcher uses computer software in conjunction with GPS locators on MOFD and ConFire equipment to dispatch the unit which can get to an emergency quickest. The Orinda Task Force report compiled a year’s worth of actual responses and determined that while Moraga-based units did respond to 417 incidents into Orinda, they did not do so 100% of the time. In fact, it was closer to 50% in the area that they were designated first responder. In addition, Orinda-based units provided significant first responder and backup response into Moraga contrary to what the maps indicated, and the MOFD Chiefs stated never happened. The net effect was that 96% of Moraga-based engine operations into Orinda were offset by Orinda-based engine operations into Moraga and the only significant net service by Moraga-based units into Orinda were 100 ambulance operations in the year, 50 of which were first responses (one per week). This service, by the two-person Moraga-based ambulance was 1/3 the number of mutual aid responses ConFire provided to MOFD with 3-person engines for which ConFire requested no compensation. This data was from 2009 when Orinda and Moraga each had one dedicated ambulance with a third ambulance at Orinda’s station 44 on Moraga Way which was only sporadically used (less than 10% of the time; 32 times total in that year) even though 80% of all incidents are medical in nature. Now, there are three ambulances in Orinda serving Orinda’s 17,600 residents and one ambulance in Moraga servicing Moraga’s 16,000 residents. Is it possible that the single Moraga-based ambulance is also providing net service to Orinda? The fact is, regardless of what the MOFD Chiefs alleged in an attempt to pull the wool over Orinda’s eyes (for what purpose I don’t know as they should be community-neutral), Moraga-based units don’t, and never have, provided significant service into Orinda which has not been reciprocated by service from Orinda into Moraga.

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