IAFF official presents negotiation proposals to Mehlville directors

By MIKE ANTHONY

A pay increase for all employees and cap-ping the pay differential for fire/medics are among negotiation proposals submitted to the Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors last week by union employees.

Mark Woolbright, a captain with the Pattonville Fire Protection District and 2nd District vice president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, presented 21 proposals for negotiations to the Board of Directors on behalf of IAFF Local 1889.

Besides proposing a pay increase for all employees and capping the pay differential for fire/medics at the current amount of $4,000 per year, Local 1889 wants to discuss increasing the number of vacation days, adding two personal days per year, upgrading the district’s long-term disability policy and having the Board of Directors consider some type of matching funds for retirement contributions.

Woolbright, accompanied by Local 1889 President Nick Fahs, presented the negotiation proposals to the board during a period for public comment. Fahs did not address the board.

“… What we have this evening is some things, some items for your consideration and we’re not asking for any decisions to be made this evening, but we would like to … give this to you and at some point hopefully get a response back to where we could sit down and discuss some of the items that we feel would … be effective in terms of the overall operations here with the department,” Woolbright said.

“Again, we’re not asking for anything this evening other than your attention to these items that we’re submitting and we look forward to sitting down with you in the real near future and see if we can work through some of these …,” he added.

Board Chairman Aaron Hilmer told the Call he was surprised by the timing of the proposals being submitted to the board.

“… Quite honestly, I was kind of surprised at the whole timing of this. The board’s not considering any changes at the district, so I was just kind of surprised that this all got dropped on us,” he said.

But regarding the proposals submitted by Local 1889, Hilmer said, “I’m sure the Board of Directors will review these and if they have any questions or wish to follow up, we will then contact Mr. Woolbright and take it from there.”

The board chairman said he has not had the opportunity yet to thoroughly review Local 1889’s proposals.

“… Certainly, I haven’t had time to review it myself and I don’t want to speak for the other two board members, though I know both of them are knee deep in preparing for another lawsuit that’s been filed by the firefighters’ union — the same one who dropped a big want list on our lap,” Hilmer said.

Board Treasurer Bonnie Stegman and Secretary Ed Ryan currently are preparing for depositions in a federal lawsuit filed last year by the IAFF on behalf of two former district employees, Hilmer said.

Bob Strinni, a firefighter and president of Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, and Jeri Fleschert, a paramedic and secretary of the Local 1889 Executive Board, were fired by the Board of Directors in June 2008 for what Mehlville officials termed a violation of the district’s anti-harassment policy.

Strinni had been employed by the district since February 1994 while Fleschert had been employed by Mehlville since August 1985.

The lawsuit filed by the IAFF contends Strinni and Fleschert were fired by the Board of Directors for their union leadership activities.

Though Hilmer has not yet had a chance to thoroughly review Local 1889’s negotiation proposals, the cap of the pay differential for fire/medics stood out, he said.

Noting he was speaking for himself and not the board, Hilmer said, “This goes against everything we’ve done there. The fire/medic pay differential is an integral part of creating and maintaining a premier, progressive department that Mehlville is becoming … We have changed from a government bureaucracy to a meritocracy where a person’s achievements, education and worth will take them further, and, if anything, I think this differential will be increasing in the near future. The chances of this proposal passing are slim to none, and slim just left the building.”

Since taking office in April 2005, Hilmer and Stegman have focused on hiring only firefighter/paramedics to improve service to district residents.

In October 2005, Chief Jim Silvernail initiated the advanced life-support pumper program in which the district’s pumpers provide advanced life support, or ALS, instead of just basic life support for medical emergencies.

For 2009, the board has set a goal of having a paramedic on each piece of district apparatus on a full-time basis.

Hilmer also questioned why Local 1889 had Woolbright present the proposals to the board.

“Mr. Woolbright, I thought he was an odd choice. The last time I heard from Mr. Woolbright, he was blathering some nonsense regarding the then-vice president of (Local) 1889 who was indicted on federal murder-for-hire charges,” he said. “I was surprised they drug out someone with such little credibility to speak to the board.’