2017-01-19 / Letters

Fire fighters have contract: employees will remain vigilant despite criticism

To the editor:

On November 11, after about 18 months of negotiations with the city, Biddeford’s career fire fighters and city manager Jim Bennett reached a labor deal that is good for both the taxpayers of Biddeford and its fire fighters.

Several days later, the details of the agreement were presented to the city council in executive session. Upon coming out of that executive session, several disparaging remarks were made by elected leaders who obviously have not taken the time to properly educate themselves on what Biddeford’s fire fighters do for this community every day.

One of the ill-informed counselors would like you to believe that fire fighters only work eight days a month. He is only half right as each of those eight days is a 24-hour shift. As a matter of fact, Biddeford’s fire fighters average 42 hours of work per week, the most among city employees. It is also important to note that Biddeford’s fire fighters are on duty 24 hours a day, including nights, weekends, holidays and through all severe weather conditions.

A second irresponsible comment over-inflated the amount of sick time given to fire fighters. Contrary to the claim of fire fighters getting 12 sick days a month, it is actually 12 hours a month, and in their line of work, it only adds up to six sick days a year. While we do our best to maintain optimum health, we are human. Our job can cause us to get injured more than we would like and we do get sick occasionally. And in our business, the goal when we respond is to assist you in your time of need, not pass along a cough, cold or flu bug.

The fact that these comments have been made, while disheartening, is good insight as to why contract negotiations have taken 18 months to complete. From the onset, Biddeford Career Fire Fighters Local 3107 initially proposed, and has strived to maintain, a healthy labor management relationship that promotes a more productive and cost effective service to residents, raises morale on the fire department and enhances working conditions for Biddeford’s fire fighters. Yet during this time, city officials have chosen to take an adversarial route, one we feel hinders attempts to keep Biddeford moving forward in a positive direction for all.

Moving forward, the Biddeford Career Fire Fighters Local 3107 looks to address critical public safety issues not solved by the collective bargaining agreement in a friendly and positive manner. Critical uninformed comments by elected officials serve no purpose and will only deepen established rifts. Our leaders wouldn’t disparage the many contractors and vendors who do business and have contracts with our great city. It should honor its fire fighters the same way.

Timothy N. Sevigny, president Biddeford Career Firefighters Saco

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