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Manhattan Beach, MB Firefighters Negotiations at Impasse

May 04, 2022 02:26PM ● By Mb News Staff

Manhattan Beach firefighters conduct rooftop training in Manhattan Beach. Photo via Manhattan Beach Firefighters Association.

The city of Manhattan Beach has reached an impasse after 15 months of talks with the Manhattan Beach Firefighters' Association, although both sides continue to express the desire for an agreement. 

At this point in the bargaining process, mediation or fact-finding may be a next step.

The city and the firefighters' association have both issued statements on their positions, as printed below: 

Manhattan Beach Statement on Negotiations with Firefighters

"After fifteen months of negotiations, the City Council and the Manhattan Beach Firefighters’ Association (MBFA) find themselves at impasse. Impasse is a step in the negotiations process and a part of the City’s efforts to reach an agreement. The City and the MBFA will still have the opportunity to reach an agreement throughout the impasse process.

"The City Council continues to desire an agreement with the MBFA and remains committed to ensuring that any labor agreement addresses its key priorities of preserving and enhancing local fire services, increasing consistency in management practices across City departments, improving decision-making autonomy for management, and allowing for an increase in Fire Department staffing. While the City Council hoped to come to a balanced agreement, the Association has been unwilling, to date, to accept the following significant proposals:

·        Reduce overtime by modifying the constant staffing provision in the MOU to allow the City to hire additional firefighters;

·        Enhance fire services by hiring specialized fire prevention employees;

·        Increase consistency across City departments by requiring vacation be managed and pre-approved by Fire management; and

·        Align compensation with other fire agencies by adjusting the amount of paramedic pay for future employees who later promote to Fire Engineers and Fire Captains (positions in which the primary function is not the direct delivery of emergency medical services).

"Additional information regarding the City’s proposals are outlined in the City Council’s Official Statement on Fire Negotiations.

"While this labor dispute is unfortunate, the City Council would like to assure the community that the on-going negotiations will not affect the quality and response time of fire services. It is illegal for fire employees to strike per the California Labor Code. In addition, the City Council is not considering contracting out fire services with the Los Angeles County Fire Department (LACFD), and has not discussed pursuing LA County Fire options since 2019. The City Council remains committed to supporting the public safety response. The City’s proposals in the negotiations will not negatively affect MBFD’s emergency and medical response to the community."

Firefighters' Statement on Bargaining

Meanwhile, the Manhattan Beach Firefighters Association has published the following open letter to the community:

"Every day your Manhattan Beach Firefighters put on the uniform, ready to risk it all to ensure our community is safe.  We work hard to deliver excellent service, and we’re good stewards of public resources.  We are committed members of the community we serve, and we strive to give back in our time off.

"For the past two years, we have continued to deliver on the promise of public safety through COVID-19, record California Wildfire seasons, and numerous city-inflicted firefighter shortages.

"Your fire department has had a revolving door of Fire Chiefs, with your City having six in the past four years. Having unfilled vacancies within the department, unsupported succession planning, proposed personnel cuts to our premier cross-trained firefighter/paramedics, and misleading rhetoric from city bureaucrats have forced us to bring the truth to you.

"Here are the facts.

"Due to the City’s delays, management tactics and lack of support your Manhattan Beach Firefighters haven’t seen a cost-of-living increase in over four years.  This effective pay freeze places us behind every other city employee group cost-of-living increase. The City seemed to forget your firefighters’ work through the pandemic. The City recently removed the incentive to promote from Captain to Battalion Chief and now is attempting to create a two-tier internal pay scale that stifles growth, cuts opportunities, and asks future MBFD Captains to make $14,136 less per year than a current Captain makes today. These cuts threaten the future of our department, stifle institutional knowledge, risk public safety, and set the stage for Fire Chief instability, uncertainty, and community vulnerability.

"City Leadership has consistently failed to ensure open fire department vacancies were promptly filled and is now trying to shift blame to the backs of your firefighters. Your Firefighters simply want fairness, a safe place to work, and enough firefighters to respond when you call 9-1-1.

"Managers often claim “efficiency” when privatizing positions in public safety while they forget about the need for “resiliency” in our response.  Cutting the service level in Fire Prevention reduces the number of MBFD firefighters available to respond and assist when significant events and mass casualty incidents occur.  This makes our job of protecting you and your family needlessly much more difficult.

"Your firefighters want a fair contract, a fair opportunity to promote, fair benefits to attract and retain the best, and safe working conditions for this unpredictably dangerous job.  We aren’t politicians, we’re public servants, and we need your help.  The City has walked away from the bargaining table leaving behind an impossible offer that firefighters should not accept.  We now ask you to contact the City today and join our community coalition for sustainable public safety through a fair contract."

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Residents may contact City Council members on the issue by emailing [email protected]

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