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Tensions Rise In Manhattan Beach Fire Department Contract Dispute

Sep 18, 2022 05:10PM ● By Jeanne Fratello

Photo via Manhattan Beach Fire Department

A war of words has heated up between the city of Manhattan Beach and the Manhattan Beach Fire Department over contract negotiations. The two sides have been at impasse for more than 18 months.

Tensions reached a peak on Friday, when the Manhattan Beach Firefighters Association sent out a missive - received by text by many residents - declaring that the city planned to impose cuts in the fire department.

That was followed by a press release from the city on Saturday, insisting that the city has no plans to make cuts in the department. 

The Manhattan Beach City Council is set to discuss the issue at its meeting on Tuesday, September 20. In the meantime, the firefighters' association is working to mobilize residents to attend the meeting to show support for the department. 

Fact-Finder's Report Released

After reaching impasse, the two parties went to fact-finding on August 5. The fact-finder's report, released September 9, is available here. The report called for concessions from both sides.

However, the City Council agenda for Tuesday night includes a proposed resolution (Resolution 22-0136) declaring that the city will impose its last, best, and final offer from April, effective September 24.

On Friday, many residents received a text from the Manhattan Beach Firefighters' Association that read, in part, "City Council Schedules Vote to Cut MBFD. Breaking News: Council ignores Neutral, 3rd party report, and votes to CUT MBFD on Tues!"

On its website, the Manhattan Beach Firefighters Association issued a statement that read, in part: "To our surprise, and contrary to the City Council's previous statements, the City Council placed a resolution on the September 20 City Council meeting agenda to impose their last, best, final offer. This ignores the independent 3rd party's report and imposes drastic cuts which includes eliminating Firefighter/Paramedics positions. The agenda item includes massive cuts to the MBFD and will ultimately affect the level of service you receive by reducing the daily number of personnel on duty. We are saddened the City Council has chosen to ignore the independent, 3rd party report and the Manhattan Beach community."

On Saturday, the city of Manhattan Beach countered with a press release declaring that "the latest mass messages [from the firefighters' association] indicating that the City Council has scheduled a vote to “Cut MBFD” or “Cut Fire Services” are false and do not reflect the City Council’s upcoming public discussion." 

The statement from the city said that city intends to continue to:
  • Enhance fire services and increase staffing by removing the restrictive prescribed staffing language in the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that limits the number of firefighters within the Fire Department to a maximum of 8 per shift.
  • Reduce excessive overtime within the Firefighters’ Association and provide much needed department management discretion and oversight.
  • Uphold the City Council’s commitment to keep fire services local now and into the future.
"Regardless of whether or not the labor negotiations are resolved via an agreement based upon the factfinder’s proposals, or whether the Council decides to impose the terms of its last, best and final offer, there are no cuts of service being proposed," the statement concluded. 

Dispute Has Been Ongoing

The MBFA is a labor association that represents all non-management Manhattan Beach Fire Department employees, including Firefighter/Paramedics, Fire Engineer/Paramedics, and Fire Captain/Paramedics.

After more than 18 months of bargaining, negotiations with the city remain at an impasse. Firefighters have complained of "mismanagement" at the Fire Department with six fire chiefs in the last five years; and with frozen positions leaving staffing at dangerously low levels (resulting in significantly increased overtime costs).

Nevertheless, City Council members have held firm on their side of the dispute, maintaining that the city has made significant modifications from its opening proposal at the beginning of 2021 in an effort to move closer to an agreement, and that there is no threat to public safety.

For background on the contract dispute, a full chronicle of the city's communications on the fire department contract negotiations can be found here. A full list of the firefighters' associations statements and rebuttals to the city can be found here.

Residents who wish to express their views may leave an eComment for the meeting here. To comment by email, send an email to all five City Council members at [email protected] and cc the city clerk at [email protected].

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