We Need a Taxpayer Grievance

How can an entity — whether a business, a town, a nonprofit, whatever — operate like this?

[Little Compton Firefighter Fred] Melnyk was off duty at the time, out of uniform, and had been in the fire-station earlier at 11:16 when the medical incident in question was called in. An emergency medical technician (EMT) with cardiac training, Mr. Melnyk immediately responded to the call by himself, driving the Rescue 1 to the scene at John T. Martin Road, one mile from the station.
He later found himself stranded there when two other firefighters, who had arrived in two separate fire trucks, fresh from finishing another nearby incident, took Rescue 1, with a patient inside, and drove to Charlton Memorial Hospital, 30 minutes away.
That left Mr. Melnyk with the two parked fire trucks that needed to be returned to the station. With him was the fire chief and his command car. A decision was made (that Lt. Woods later grieved) that Mr. Melnyk, still off duty and at no cost to the town, would drive the two trucks back to the station, and not leave them parked on John T. Martin Road, a task Mr. Melnyk accomplished in two trips, ferried back to the residence by the chief in the command car.

Lt. David Woods has filed a grievance claiming that he should have been called in for his four-hour minimum of overtime pay, receiving $127.36 for around twenty minutes worth of work.

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michael
michael
11 years ago

Or, you could staff a full time fire department and NEVER send one person on an emergency call.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Where is common sense?
Stuff like this sure doesn’t help the image of unions or its members.

MadMom
MadMom
11 years ago

We need a Taxpayer Revolt.

michael
michael
11 years ago

One guy responds to an emergency while off duty. He was at the station and did what just about anybody in the same position would do. Whatever the emergency, it was handled and the patient transported. The town gets away without paying for emergency services.
People want to run city and town government like businesses. If that is the case, pay for services rendered, within the contractual language you negotiated and quit complaining.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

Did I read this right – the off-duty firefighter, who drove the rescue truck to the scene and drove two fire trucks back to the station, did not file a grievance, but another firefighter who did nothing filed a grievance saying that he should have been called in for overtime?
If so, and if I were the Chief, I’d look for the first opportunity to fire Lt. Woods.
FWIW, I am a volunteer in an all volunteer town.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“The town gets away without paying for emergency services.”
I’d have no problem with it at all if Melnyk billed for his services as overtime (if it is overtime for him). That’s perfectly appropriate. But to call someone in just to drive a truck? Ridiculous.

michael
michael
11 years ago

You’re right, Patrick, it is ridiculous. Society has gotten to such a place of mistrust it is truly pathetic. I remember when I thought an honest days pay for an honest days work meant something. We (unions) have convoluted the whole thing, not entirely through our own fault but a lot of the blame lies on us.
It seems everything I do, or buy, or sign comes with a huge serving of anxiety.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“We (unions) have convoluted the whole thing, not entirely through our own fault but a lot of the blame lies on us.”
Yep, I suspect the dirtbag quotient inside unions probably equals that of general society, but it’s those extreme few who get the spotlight put on them and become the definition of the union. The bigger problem is when the unions try to defend the actions of some that make no sense. Or when you hear of teachers who strongly oppose their school’s curriculum but say there’s nothing they can do about it. As Dan Yorke is wont to say, they’ll walk in circles if someone wants to touch their compensation, but “there’s nothing we can do about” things like curriculum. I think that’s what irritates me most about some union members.

EMT
EMT
11 years ago

With 5 grievances files since August, and a chief that quits in the middle of a performance review, you have to wonder what’s going on over there.

Sparky
Sparky
11 years ago

With a $4 mil rate on property, I’ll put up with what ever they have going on over there.

David S
David S
11 years ago

You should get your facts straight. After all blogging is taking over. Mr. Melnyk, who drove both vehicles back at no cost to the town, is the UNION PRESIDENT. What! You Say! NO COMMENT

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Which facts aren’t straight, David? Clearly Melnyk is a union member; that he’s the president strikes me as largely irrelevant (unless you’re suggesting that he was in on the scam).
The article also says that he’s a “junior” officer. Again, the fact remains that the public-sector union structure leaves towns vulnerable for having to pay (essentially) hundreds of dollars per hour for a guy to drive a couple of trucks up the street.

David S
David S
11 years ago

what say you? Not so fast on the rebuttal. You have purported over the years that labor problems have not resided with the workers but with their union bosses. Mr. Melnyk, by your description as a union president , is a union boss, and using your logic, THE problem. But it was the union boss who decided on a course of action that saved money for the town. What say you, Mr. Katz.

BobN
BobN
11 years ago

David, the two phases of this incident are not mutually exclusive. I don’t know what happened but it is not impossible that Mr. Melnyk did the right thing for the rescue incident – getting the ambulance to the patient without delay – and then was in on the claim for overtime.
I mentioned this incident to a friend who works in a similar town’s FD. He said they have a new SOP mandating that someone be called from the on-call list for overtime even if someone not on the list is available and on-site.
The unprofessionalism of this behavior really gives union members a bad reputation – deservedly so.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

David,
I say that you have a way of interacting that makes me not want to engage you in conversation, even when you raise a worthwhile point.
Two factors are at play, here:
1) There are different structures in unions, notably between firefighter unions and teacher unions. My complaint against “bosses” (although I don’t think I’ve phrased it like that) has been focused on the organizers who aren’t actually among the workers.
2. My broader complaint, though, is against union members swept up in the union mentality, and it appears by his behavior that Melnyk hasn’t fallen into that lamentable rut. (I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt, I admit.)

David S
David S
11 years ago

You are right. Sorry about the Bill O Reilly thing. But if you are going to claim to compete with the MSM than you have to take some heat. You did not get this story straight.And no convoluted analysis can correct that.

EMT
EMT
11 years ago

With a $4 mil rate on property, I’ll put up with what ever they have going on over there.
1-man ambulances and fire trucks is what’s going on, apparently.

Phil
Phil
11 years ago

Does the town want something for nothing? Does the quoted councilman rail against any of the private vendors that do business with the town to knock off one hundred bucks here and a hundred there because it would help the town?
Does Justin work through his lunch break, stay an hour after the workday to help out his employer or the employers customer without compensation? If he does and is unhappy about the lack of compensation he is then nothing more than a tool like the ones he carries in his workvan.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Sparky wrote:
“With a $4 mil rate on property, I’ll put up with what ever they have going on over there.”
If you are, then you’ve probably got no worries as the average property is about $1M. This is why the tax rate is so low.

Dave
Dave
11 years ago

Here’s an easy fix: put the proper amount of emt’s or paramedics on duty as needed for public safety, so you dont need to be driving around fire trucks and rescue vehicles by yourself. Justin if you were building a wall you wouldn’t build it by yourself and then hope there were enough people around to hoist it up into place when it came time to, would you?…no you would have the proper number of carpenters it takes to build the wall and lift it into place safely….thats not whats going on in LC. So when multiple calls come in it only makes sense that they should have to call back off duty members to work to staff the town for the next emergency…and just a side note, if Mr Melnyck crashed the town truck and he was off duty where does that leave the town liability wise?

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Hey Dave what is the “proper amount” of EMTs to have on duty on those nights in LC where there are no calls and no one’s building any brick walls? 1? 10? 100? Because you never know, there could be a plane crash into a restaurant and then you’d need 100 EMTs to help, right?

michael
michael
11 years ago

Or, you could gather information, meet with town officials, fire department administrators and union members and decide what a prudent number of emergency personel is, then establish a minimum manning number that can’t be changed at the whim of an elected official who essentially won a popularity contest and staff your department to the best of your town’s ability with the ultimate goal of providing the most efficient product.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

Michael, did they already do that in LC and determine that the way they have it set up is currently the most efficient? Dave?

Dave
Dave
11 years ago

No I dont believe they have, and no you cant always have enough staff, something can always come up. But 2 Men (1 on each fire truck and leaving the rescue in the station unmanned) is obviously not the way. Public safety is a lot like insurance Patrick you hope you never need to use it but when you find out you have it your pretty happy you do, some winter nights im sure there slow, but im glad they’re there if i need them…

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

So in this instance, two wasn’t enough. But if there was only one, someone would be saying, “There should be at least two!”. Now we have two and people want more. Heck, why not just have every citizen of the town there, and then that guarantees they’ll have enough for any emergency.

EMT
EMT
11 years ago

Heck, why not just have every citizen of the town there, and then that guarantees they’ll have enough for any emergency.
Can ANYBODY commenting on this site ever make an a fiscally conservative argument regarding public safety staffing WITHOUT taking it to this kind of extreme?

michael
michael
11 years ago

Geez EMT, I thought I did.

Justin Katz
11 years ago

Dave,
Your construction example doesn’t apply. More similar would be if I were on the jobsite off-hours, for some reason, and noticed a leak that threatened to damage the electrical system and risk a fire. Being responsible (like Melnyk), I’d have just done the work without thinking, and depending on the length of time and my reason for being onsite in the first place, I might ask to be paid for the time. But Woods’s complaint is akin to a laborer’s subsequently demanding four hours of pay because I took 20 minutes to clean up the mess after the repair.
Michael,
Given the nature of this story out of Little Compton, I wonder if you’ve any unease about suggesting that residents should trust firefighters to help determine their own mandatory staffing. I find it difficult not to be suspicious any claims from a group that can’t see the affront in Woods’s action.

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“Can ANYBODY commenting on this site ever make an a fiscally conservative argument regarding public safety staffing WITHOUT taking it to this kind of extreme?”
Sure, as soon as the unions quit pushing for “more” when they have “enough”.

michael
michael
11 years ago

I don’t know all, or to be more accurate, any of the facts pertaining to this situation, but hypothetically, if a town has a fire department that doesn’t respond to a high volume of calls, and that department has an agreement with its members to call them in to work, with a minimum of four hours pay, even if it is overtime, for any and all emergencies, then the town needs to comply with the agreement.
I don’t know the people involved or LC’s contract issue, or even if they have volunteers along with paid firefighters. Similar sized towns have people on call. Those people do the training, go to the meetings, keep their certifications current, at their own cost, and remain members of the department in good standing.
When a call comes in, they expect and deserve to be paid, be it for advanced life support or moving trucks. The town got by without paying in this case. The union member called them on it. It’s that simple.

EMT
EMT
11 years ago

Sure, as soon as the unions quit pushing for “more” when they have “enough”.
And who’s supposed to decide what “enough” is- people with zero knowledge of public safety other than their desire to get it for nothing?

Patrick
Patrick
11 years ago

“And who’s supposed to decide what “enough” is- people with zero knowledge of public safety other than their desire to get it for nothing?”
“nothing”? Now you’re also taking things to extremes. But to answer your question, not the people who gain by getting “more”.

michael
michael
11 years ago

http://newsblog.projo.com/2009/12/two-women-and-two-dogs-rescued.html
Here’s a couple of ladies and there dogs who “got a little more” last night.

Dave
Dave
11 years ago

Patrick, do you know what public safety workers make? i have a feeling you don’t.

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