Union president discusses conflict between Local 1889, MFPD board

Much has been written in the local press about Local 1889 of the International Association of Fire Fighters and the “fight” with the Board of Directors of the Mehlville Fire Protection District.

While we have tried to remain silent and rely on the court system, it appears the Board of Directors and the local media are trying this case in the newspaper.

The fact of the matter is there have been many things that have not been told to the public:

• The pension-plan manager stated there is nothing wrong with the current plan and it is properly funded.

• Lump-sum pension options are cost neutral to the pension plan.

• After criticizing lump-sum pension buyouts, this board approved the largest buyout in MFPD history and rehired the same employees in the same positions.

• The board brought in political ally and crony Mike Leara, who is compensated on every transaction and spent $100,000 of taxpayer money in the process.

• Employees receive almost half of their pension contributions in their last five years of employment. Under the proposed plan, the board has chosen not to address the shortfalls of the employees and to not fully fund the plan.

Employees are not completely opposed to the pension change, but we think it should be done fair. Under the proposed pension plan, employees would have to work seven more years to age 65 and still not receive the same benefits of the existing plan.

The only 65-year-old firefighter I know was Gus from “Leave It to Beaver.”

The fairest way to change the plan was to leave the existing employees in the old plan and place the new employees in the new plan.

Now, how is the taxpayer affected?

• The Board of Directors would like the taxpayers to think it is providing a great service and that it put a firefighter/paramedic on every fire truck. Numerous times in the paper the board has stated it put a firefighter/paramedic on every fire truck. This is not true. However, I’m sure the Board of Directors will fix this lie before Bonnie Stegman’s election in April.

• The taxpayers have lost hundreds of years of experienced employees along with an inability to attract qualified employees under this board’s direction. In the past, there were hundreds of qualified applicants, but that’s no longer the case.

• The hiring and promotional standards have been lowered.

• The inability to attract certified firefighter/paramedics causes the taxpayers to pay for employees to attend the Fire Academy.

• The morale of the employees is lowest in MFPD history.

Some people only get a chance to call 911 once in their lives and they expect to get the best of the best. The men and women of this department are the true service — not the pretty trucks or firehouses.

As Local 1889 president, I am proud of the men and women of this department and the service they provide, the professionalism they show and their dedication to the citizens of this fire protection district.

I would like to publicly challenge the Board of Directors to quit offering pay raises only if we end the pension litigation and either negotiate in good faith or both sides agreed to mediation. The employees will agree to mediation to end this conflict and make this fire protection district what it once was for our citizens.

Bob Strinni

Oakville

Editor’s note: Mr. Strinni, a firefighter, was fired by the MFPD Board of Directors in June for allegedly violating the district’s anti-harassment policy. He said he intends to file a lawsuit to be reinstated.