The mayor, fire chief, and president of the firefighters union recently asked for an opinion on two compensation issues.
One, does a firefighter who is not scheduled to work on a holiday get an extra day off for the holiday anyway? And two, should he get extra time off or be paid for doing maintenance in the fire station during his regular shift such as painting, machinery repair, hanging sheetrock and so forth?
The current administration has been opposed to both practices. The attorney general's opinion supports the administration in both cases and opposes the firefighters position.
The AG's office said, "there exists no authority for the payment of additional compensation or the award of compensatory time for work on a holiday if the employee's normal day off falls on that holiday."
If the employee is scheduled to work on a holiday, however, he can be given a day off to make up for his being required to work the holiday. The second issue, was comp time for firefighters who did routine maintenance and repairs during their regular shift. Again the attorney general sided with the city administration and against the firefighters position.
"Performing additional duties such as routine maintenance and repairs during their regular shifts would not entitle firefighters to earn compensatory time or pay," said the attorney general.
City councilwoman Barbara Henson said she expected the ruling as it was.
"Being somewhat familiar with the Fair Labor Standards Act, I have felt that it would be like it was," said Henson. "No, I'm not surprised at all."
But will this ruling have an effect on the proposed new contract with the firefighters?
"The council's position, and I'm sure the administration's, we want what's best for the employees and we want what's in the law," said Henson. "So to meet that criteria we would have to find some areas that would please one and some that would not please the others. But I feel it can be negotiated."
We contacted Mike Sims, head of the firefighters union but he said he had not yet read the opinion and he wished to discuss it with the mayor and the fire chief before making any comment.