Looking at the last ninety days, a lot of things have happened within the Local I-60, and I’d like to take a few minutes to update everyone on some of the more major events, as well as what to expect in the near future.In December, myself and Vice President PJ Elias worked with the leadership of AMR to resolve a long outstanding labor dispute surrounding Rural Metro’s unlawful withholding of longevity pay to employees with more than 10 years of service. Working together with AMR, we were able to pay out nearly $750,000 to employees just in time for the Christmas holidays.

In January, the amendment to our retirement was filed with the Arizona Federal District Court, which was the pivotal issue in complying with the Local I-60’s arbitration award from April of 2014 — something that Rural Metro refused to do despite a federal court order. In January, the Local I-60 and AMR set a timeline to finish the numerous moving parts involved in accurately funding the pension plan. This comes after nearly two years of fighting in court, in the media, and on the streets.

In February, the Local I-60 was able to negotiate a replacement for our pension plan going forward. As of July 1st, 2016, Local I-60 members will have access to a 401k defined contribution match program that provides a dollar-for-dollar match up to 7% of wages — matched bi-weekly. While this is a bittersweet ending to what has become an epic battle, it is a benefit to the majority of EMS professionals working throughout Arizona. The change in retirement will better serve the majority of our bargaining unit members who rarely stay the required five years to become vested in the pension plan. It also allows all of our members access to their retirement funds by using 401k loans, hardship withdraws or rollovers — something not possible with a pension plan. I realize that this change is a polarizing topic for some of our members, and that many of you still have questions about this change — all of which myself and the leadership team of the Local I-60 are committed to answering.

Also in February, the Local I-60 was able to negotiate the repayment of legal fees for costs incurred to our Union in fighting the pension plan in federal court — a total of $260,000.

Throughout the last ninety days, we have also worked with management to improve and update several policies. We revised the shift-bid process to allow everyone to bid without having to wait the 120 days between bids. I don’t believe it is right to lock employees into a potentially bad situation where they may not get along with their partner, the fire department, or be able to tolerate an extremely busy or extremely slow station. Rather than forcing an employee to stay, we’ve made it so that you can bid during the next cycle, even if you just won a bid. The only drawback is that if you deny a bid, you can’t bid for 60 days.

We’ve also updated the shift-lateral policy. You can now lateral a shift with any employee right after you win yours, provided it is on the same unit. If you want to lateral to a different unit, you will have to work your bid shift for sixty days first.

Another policy we have updated is the Appearance Policy. Previously, employees were limited to one tattoo per extremity, which had to be less than 3 in X 3 in. We’ve eliminated the size requirement, which hopefully will decrease the amount of people that are stuck wearing long sleeve shirts in the Arizona heat. The facial hair policy has also been updated. Employees can now have facial hair such as a goatee or soul patch, provided it doesn’t interfere the the N-95 mask.

The PTO policy was also updated to reflect current practice and serve as a guidance document for employees to submit both PTO and Short PTO requests. Please keep in mind that all requests for PTO and Short PTO are to be submitted online using NetScheduler — and you need to pick the correct PTO type when you submit your request. PTO is for more than 14 days in advance. Short PTO is for something more than 72 hours in advance but less than two weeks.

As a first for Southwest Ambulance in Arizona, we’ve developed a new policy, E. 15 Dispatch Response, which sets standards for responding to calls and move-ups. This is meant to instill consistency and remove subjectivity from the disciplinary process. Prior to this, some managers were setting sixty second policies in the west valley of Phoenix, where managers in the east valley were educating employees that they had ninety seconds. This new policy should clarify expectations and requirements for everyone and reduce the number of erroneous write-ups being issued without cause.

While all of these items have been unfolding, we’ve also been actively working on wrapping up our labor agreement with the hope to bring you a contract to vote within the next sixty to ninety days — one that will resolve the inequities between shift types by creating annualized pay, and aim to fix and eliminate the wage compression issue where new employees and ten year employees all make the same hourly rate.

We’ve also been busy pressing forward with an unfair labor practice regarding changes in the West Valley — where the Company refused to bargain in good faith with the Union over eliminating twenty four hour shifts in several cities, including Glendale, Tolleson and Avondale. In October, I, along with Vice President PJ Elias, began working with the regional National Labor Relations Board, who in January issued a formal complaint against Rural Metro / Southwest Ambulance — alleging that the company violated federal labor law — and a trial date was set for March 22nd before a judge. While we’ve been busy preparing for trial, we’ve also been focused on reaching a settlement — something that is faster for both sides.

Today, I’m proud to announce that once again, the Local I-60 has stood strong for its members, and reached a fair settlement for the unlawful practices of the past. The NLRB and Company have both approved the settlement agreement, and the company will be returning six units in the west valley back to twenty four hour shifts in Glendale, Tolleson and Avondale. They will also be paying impacted employees who lost hours because of the change and did not make them up through overtime shifts. It’s anticipated that AP150, AP151, AP152, AP156, AP172, AP181 will all be returning to 24’s on April 2nd, 2016, and further details will be sent out as things unfold.

Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the many communities we serve throughout Arizona, and for your continued support of the Local I-60.

/Kevin Burkhart