Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Council to review Personnel Policy re firefighters additional four paid days off

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In a meeting room crammed with municipal employees--firefighters and everyone else--the Chesterton Town Council at its meeting Monday night took a first step to papering over the fissure which has emerged between Local 4600 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the other departments.

At issue: career firefighters annually receive four additional paid days off every year, as a way of reducing the CFD’s overtime liability. When earlier this year Local 4600 filed a lawsuit against the town in federal court--alleging, among other things, that Fire Chief John Jarka is unreasonably restricting firefighters’ use of those four days off, by requiring them to schedule in advance when they will take them--the other department heads began hearing from their employees.

Specifically, those employees wanted to know the following:

-- “Why are the Fire Department employees receiving an additional four days off ‘benefit’ that none of the other town employees is receiving?”

-- And why, now that the firefighters are earning overtime pay for extra hours worked--per the Fair Labor Standards Act--“would the Fire Department employees continue to receive four additional paid days off?”

Those are the questions which six department heads put to the council in a letter dated April 30 and re-submitted to the council at its last meeting. The letter was signed by Town Manager Bernie Doyle, Clerk-Treasurer Stephanie Kuziela, Street Commissioner John Schnadenberg, Police Chief Dave Cincoski, Utility Superintendent Dave Ryan, and Town Engineer/Building Commissioner/Stormwater Superintendent Mark O’Dell.

At Monday’s meeting, Member Jim Ton, R-1st, read a short prepared statement at the end of the meeting, in which he appeared to concede that a problem exists, and that the problem needs solving.

That statement:

“The town has no more valuable asset than its employees. As a council, we have always attempted to treat all of our employees with equal respect and to provide all of our employees with equal benefits. On April 30, 2019, we received a letter from several of our department heads questioning why our firefighters are receiving four days off as a benefit that other employees are not receiving. At our last meeting, we agreed to review this matter.

“I believe that the council needs a better understanding of how the town’s Personnel Policy Handbook, a document that applies without limitation to all employees, compares with the agreements we have made with Local 4600. If there is a way to remedy this situation through the Personnel Policy Handbook, I believe that is where we need to start.”

Ton then made a motion to instruct department heads to work with Town Manager Doyle and legal “on this issue.”

Ton did not indicate what exactly he expects or hopes would come out of a review of the Personnel Policy Handbook. Nor did he intimate what a “remedy” might look like. Nor did he suggest a timeline for the review. Nor did he explain why the council is only now addressing this issue, when the department heads’ letter was submitted on April 30.

Bob Dunbar

Ton also took a moment at the end of the meeting to note the passing of Bob Dunbar, who died on Thursday, Nov. 21, at the age of 90.

“Bob was a consummate benefactor to the town and a true gentleman,” Ton said. “And he will be missed.”

 

Posted 11/26/2019

 
 
 
 

 

 

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