The Fire Lines # 2 - 2013
I would like to take this opportunity to wish every member and their family a very happy and healthy holiday and prosperous New Year. Let's keep our fallen members in our prayers. Below is an update of important issues currently affecting our membership.
The "One in Three Rule"
The so-called "one in three" rule is actually Section 61 of the Civil Service Law. It allows the head of a city agency to select 1 of the 3 highest ranking candidates on a civil service hiring or promotional list. It was intended to allow any agency head to bypass any person on a list if he feels they are not eligible for the job. Unfortunately, the law does not require the agency head to explain to the candidate why they are being bypassed. To get an explanation, the candidate must produce some credible proof that he was passed over for an improper reason and challenge the decision in an Article 78 proceeding in Court - a difficult and expensive endeavor.
Commissioner Cassano has unfortunately betrayed our members with the manner in which he has invoked the rule. This year, for the first time in history, the Fire Commissioner has used the rule to prevent absolutely qualified UFA members from being promoted to the rank of fire marshal. The Department told the individual firefighters they were being passed over because they were also on the Lieutenant's list. Of course, the Department doesn't have the right to do that. The NOE for the Fire Marshal exam never mentioned any restrictions on firefighters that might also be on the Lieutenant's list.
The UFA filed a grievance and Article 78's for our affected members. The members verified that they were told by the Chief Fire Marshal that they were being passed over because they were on two lists. However, when the grievance hearing was held, the Department’s lawyers said the Fire Commissioner was simply invoking his right under 1 in 3 to bypass these members and did not have to state his reason for doing so.
Commissioner Cassano's abuse of the 1 in 3 rule should concern every single member of the FDNY that ever hopes to be promoted. UFA Counsel believes our legal appeals should prevail but, if we lose, it will be devastating for our members. Any future Fire Commissioner could then choose to follow Commissioner Cassano's model and bypass anyone they don't like for reasons unrelated to their qualifications.
The Fire Commissioner has taken the most anti-union, anti-civil service position in the history of the FDNY. He will be gone but the damage he has done may live on forever.
Obamacare will pose significant challenges for Health Care and Welfare Benefits going forward. The nature of the law's ability to change as Health and Human Services (HHS) and other federal agencies write new regulations makes it difficult to predict costs going forward. With regard to health care, the City and Municiple Labor Coalition (MLC) have contracts in place through 2014, so the health plans will remain the same. However, some providers may voluntarily drop out or be dropped by the health plans. This has happened in the past but may be exacerbated due to Obamacare. The Trustees of the Security Benefit Fund (UFA Board Members) have developed, with the information available, the best possible Welfare benefit under these circumstances for our members. There will be additional costs to the Fund to meet Obamacare requirements, but none of these additional costs will be passed on to our members for 2014. The Executive Board will continue to contain costs while striving not to pass them along to our members.
As always, stay safe!
Stephen J. Cassidy,