New Labor Contract Provision Increases Overtime for Hawaii Fire Department

The Department of Fire and Public Safety in Maui County, Hawaii, has seen a dramatic increase in overtime following a recent change to the collective bargaining agreement between the county and firefighters. The county’s internal auditor has a plan to potentially reduce overtime, but the fire chief does not seem to concur with the auditor’s recommendation.

Maui County Fire Department’s overtime costs increased $1.4 million dollars between 2014 and 2015. An internal auditor blames a new provision in the firefighters’ collective bargaining agreement entitled “Rank-for-Rank Recall” for this 60 percent increase in overtime. The new provision requires absent firefighters be replaced by firefighters of an equal rank. Equally ranked firefighters are frequently paid overtime for these fill-in assignments.

The internal auditor Lance Taguchi is recommending the department create a “relief pool” of on-duty firefighters that could fill-in on assigned shifts. The “relief pool” would consist of officers, drivers, and firefighters assigned to each shift that could be utilized to fill vacancies in lieu of hiring overtime. Mr. Taguchi admits change will be neither immediate nor easy, but the future impact of “skyrocketing overtime costs” must be addressed.

While the auditor’s recommendation may appear appealing at first, Fire Chief Jeff Murray counters that using a relief pool “would be unsafe for the public and firefighters.” Rank-for-rank recall replaces absent firefighters with similarly experienced firefighters that are familiar with the equipment, community, and environment of the particular station. Chief Murray also notes that “circumvent[ing]” the rank-for-rank recall would violate the contract and subject the department to litigation.

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