Yesterday the Union received e-mail notification from Rural Metro’s Kevin Stock notifying the Union of the Company’s intent to modify the West Valley deployment plan including eliminating some 24 hour shifts. A copy of the e-mail letter sent by management can be downloaded here as a PDF (2015-09-02 West Valley Notification).

Over the past 8 months, Rural Metro has discussed significant changes to ambulances serving the west valley communities of the Phoenix area. The proposal is “a reduction [of 24-hour shifts] to provide better coverage during the high-volume time frames.” 

While discussed during bargaining sessions early this year, the proposals were not truly presented to the Union until August 5th, 2015 where the Company proposed a new deployment plan for the West Valley, and had an initial proposed start date of August 22nd, 2015 — though were flexible to extend that to the following pay-period of September 5th. 

In the initial proposal, Rural Metro management proposed a variety of shifts to replace the 24-hour shifts ranging from three twelves per week, to four tens, and five eights. There were follow-up meetings on August 10th, and again on August 24th, 2015. 

Viewing thirty-six hours per week as unacceptable, the Union worked to increase that number, which over time increased from thirty six per week to thirty-six week one and forty-eight week two. Still viewing that as unacceptable, the Union worked to increase the minimum hours to forty-eight each week — the equivalent of an additional thirty two hours above the minimum thirty-six hours per week in the Company’s initial schedule proposal.  The Local I-60 was also able to work with management to get a priority overtime status for those who were on a twenty-four hour shift but found themselves displaced to a shift with less hours. Compared to the initial proposal by Rural Metro, the latest proposal is a significant improvement over what would have come to be without the collective bargaining process. 

While the Local I-60 by no means agrees with this changes, the Union’s role is to bargain on behalf of it’s members to reduce loss and mitigate risk. Rural Metro’s obligation is to bargain with the Union over the Company’s proposed changes in good faith to reach an agreement or reach lawful impasse — at which point they can implement their proposal. 

On August 25th, the Company provided the Union with their updated proposal to reflect the discussions between the two parties regarding shift durations and hours of work per week. 

You can download a chart of both the West Valley Current Staffing Model and West Valley Proposed staffing model which shows shifts, durations and start times. 

Questions & Answers

What Changes Has the Company Proposed?
Rural Metro Management has proposed that approximately eight (8) 24 hours shifts be shut down, reducing the number from 22 to 14 in the West Valley. Six of the trucks being reduced will come from Glendale, and the remainder from Goodyear (181) and Avondale (172). Overall their reduction is from a scheduled 3,960 to 3,144. You can view a copy of both the West Valley Current Staffing Model and West Valley Proposed.

What is the Union’s Position on These Changes?
The Union is opposed to any changes which would put the communities we serve at risk by removing dedicated emergency services from from their current response areas. The Local I-60 is also opposed to changes that would negatively impact our members and their families. The Company’s plan causes a reduction of income and hours for our healthcare professionals of the Local I-60, and puts hard working members at risk of increased on-duty injuries and accidents by having to respond lights and sirens from even further distances through already crowded roadways. 

When Do These Changes Take Effect?
Rural Metro has proposed that the changes go into effect on September 19th, 2015 — the start of a new pay period. 

Will the Company Be Giving Us “Blended Pay”?
No. Rural Metro has insistently refused to provide the blended pay / variable pay rate system that equalizes employees to an annual rate rather than an hourly rate. This type of system is used in other Rural Metro markets, however management refuses to provide the same benefits here in Arizona. The Local I-60 has been trying to establish this valuable benefit for several years, though without any movement from management.

Will We Have to Bid for Our Spots?
The Company stated in their notice to the Union that “any hard bid employees on the redeployed units will be allowed to participate in a displacement bid prior to the effective date.” At this time the Union is not aware of what is meant by the management when they state displacement bid.

How will Rural Metro handle PTO and Vacations if my schedule changes?
In Rural Metro’s letter, Kevin Stock states “any employee that is affected by the redeployment in the West Valley have their approved PTO either cancelled or honored whichever the employee would like as long as they communicate what their needs are with their Assistant General Manager (AGM) or General Manager.”

Why is the Company Making These Changes?
Initially it was the Union’s understanding that the proposed changes were to be more efficient and improve EMS delivery to the communities we serve. Unfortunately that does not appear to be a correct understanding, but rather Rural Metro is seeking to reduce the cost of labor and infrastructure in the West Valley for budget and financial reasons. The proposed changes in staffing do not improve the quality or speed of emergency services in the West Valley communities — they simply put profits before patients. 

When Will More Information Be Available?
Please join the local I-60 at the September 8th Union Meetings (0900 Phoenix, 1600 Tucson) where you can ask questions and gain a better understanding of these changes.