Public safety in Omaha has taken a big step forward, due to a grievance filed by the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association back in July 2013.
On September 13, 2014, a third-party neutral Arbitrator, John Sass, Esq., found that from July 15, 2013, through the present, the City has been in violation of its contractual obligation to adhere to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines concerning minimum safety standards for the deployment of Fire Department resources. The issue came into question after Mayor Jean Stothert proposed a budget calling for the reduction of services provided by the Fire Department as part of the 2014 budget process.
Representatives from the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association filed a grievance and later sought an injunction from Douglas County District Judge James Gleason. After Judge Gleason dismissed the injunction request, Mayor Stothert publicly stated that she felt that the Union’s underlying position had no merit. After hearing two days of testimony in June 2014, Arbitrator Sass found that the Union was, in fact, correct, and that the City was violating its obligations under the contract and had been in violation of the agreement since at least July 15, 2013.
The arbitrator has ordered the City to maintain a medic unit in service located at 16th and Spring Street. He has also ordered the City to place at least one more fire apparatus, either a medic unit, engine company or truck company, in service for the duration of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement in order to alleviate deficiencies in the City’s ability to respond to emergencies within the time frames established by the NFPA. The City must meet this requirement this calendar year.
“This is a victory for the people of Omaha and for fire fighter safety. The attempts by the Mayor to reduce public safety were found to be in violation of promises made by the City to the citizens and the fire fighters who strive to protect them,” said Steve LeClair, President of the Omaha Professional Firefighters Association.
The City has also been ordered to prepare a report identifying its deficiencies in response time and address the steps that are necessary to achieve compliance with the NFPA standard.
This arbitration decision comes on the heels of another arbitrator’s award wherein the City was found to be in violation of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement; through its manipulation of the promotional process.
Attached, please find both arbitration awards.
For all inquiries, or to speak with Steve LeClair, please contact Ann Hadfield at 402-292-5553 x 1935.
On behalf of The Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association, I am pleased to see our state senators at the Nebraska Legislature pass LB 811, which will make assaulting a firefighter, paramedic or social worker carry a stiffer penalty, similar to those already in place for the crime of assault on a police officer.
We especially would like to thank state Sen. Steve Lathrop for his work introducing the bill and helping advance it through the legislature.
This bill not only applies to emergency response personnel but also provides protection to out-of-hospital care workers and employees of state corrections and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.
It is our hope that this law never has to be enforced, but unfortunately we saw the need for such a law last summer. In July 2013, one of our members, a paramedic, was shot in the back of an ambulance by the patient he was called upon to help. In January, the woman who fired at him was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Protecting our members and the safety of all the citizens we serve is our top priority, and the passing of LB 811 will help us do just that.
Dec. 19, 2013 — After a tragic fire claimed the lives of two small children yesterday, the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association has established a fund to help benefit the family. The public is encouraged to make donations at the Omaha Fire Fighters Credit Union to the “Fire Fatality Benefit Fund.” All money donated will go directly to the family. The members of the Omaha Professional Fire Fighters Association have made an opening contribution of $1,000.
The address of the Omaha Fire Fighters Credit Union is 4630 S. 143rd Street in Omaha, 68137. The community can donate in person or through the mail.