Through the collective bargaining process under Chapter 174, Texas Local Government Code, the City and the Fort Worth Professional Firefighters Association (Association) negotiated and reached an agreement on all of the terms of a successor Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2014 regarding terms and conditions of employment for Fort Worth fire fighters (fire fighters). This current CBA, between the City and the Association was approved by the City Council on October 21, 2014 (M&C-27052). The current CBA expires on September 30, 2018. Following recent discussions between the City and the Association, the parties have agreed on amendments to Articles 18 and 28 of the current CBA.
Article 32 of the CBA sets out the process required for amending the CBA. For an amendment to any provision of the CBA to be effective, the amendment must be ratified by a majority vote of fire fighters and approved by the City Council. On November 11, 2016, the Association informed the City that a majority of fire fighters voted to ratify the amendments to Articles 18 and 28 of the CBA. The amendments cannot be incorporated into the CBA unless and until the City Council approves the amendments.
Article 18 of the CBA is entitled "Procedures for Filling and Probationary Period for Beginning Positions in the Fort Worth Fire Department" and sets out the process required for hiring new fire fighters. Section 6 of Article 18 needs to be amended in order reflect an organizational change that moves the hiring process administrator out of the Training Section of the Educational and Support Services Division. The Fire Department administration recommends approval of this amendment so that Article 18 will accurately reflect the Department's organizational structure.
Article 28 of the CBA, entitled "Sick Leave" pertains to requirements for fire fighters who use sick leave, including general requirements, written verification of sick leave usage, medical documentation requirements, overtime restrictions, disability accommodation, medical information protection and requirements of the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The City and the Association have agreed to the following amendments to Article 28:
(1) a change in the number of hours of sick leave a fire fighter can use before medical documentation is required (from 48 hours to 72 hours for fire fighters in Operations and from 30 hours to 45 hours for fire fighters in Staff positions);
(2) a change that sets a limit of 90 days for the time a fire fighter can be on the overtime restriction list for failing to provide required medical documentation; and
(3) a change in the manner by which documentation relating to sick leave usage is reported.
In connection with the amendments to Article 28, the Association has agreed to a new Fire Department Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that will include the creation of a "Sick and Family Leave Committee" (Leave Committee) whose purpose will be to review the use of sick leave and family leave by fire fighters in order to identify cases in which fire fighters have engaged in a practice of excessive or inappropriate sick leave or family leave. Those fire fighters whom the Leave Committee determines have used excessive leave (as defined in the SOP) will be placed on Vacation Relief status (VR status), and the firefighter will not be allowed to bid for any specific positions within the department for a period of six months. The effect of being on VR status is that the fire fighter is not assigned to work at a specific fire station but, rather, the fire fighter is subject to assignment, for each shift the fire fighter is scheduled to work, to any fire station that has a vacancy that must be filled. After six months, the fire fighter will remain on VR status, but will be able to bid for assignment to a specific fire station. The details of the Leave Committee are set out in the proposed SOP attached to this M&C. The SOP will be implemented after the Amendments to Articles 18 and 28 are approved by the City Council and will be effective January 1, 2017.
The purpose of the Leave Committee is not to limit or curtail the use of appropriate sick leave or family leave by any fire fighter. The purpose of the work of the Leave Committee is to help ensure that the resources of the City and the Department are used appropriately. The Fire Department administration believes that the work of the Leave Committee will help the department control the use of excessive or improper sick leave and family leave so that the Department can more efficiently and effectively fulfill its mission and manage the needs of the department.
The Fire Department Administration recommends approval of these changes because it will allow the department to better manage and monitor the use of sick and family time. In addition, the amendments to Article 28, and the Association's agreement to a new SOP that establishes the Leave Committee are part of the settlement of a grievance filed by the Association concerning the City's application of the provisions of Article 28. The agreed resolution of this grievance is dependent on approval of the amendments to Article 28.
This M&C does not request approval of a contract with a business entity.