1. WTC Prescription Card
The UFA's successful efforts in helping to secure funding from the Federal Government for the treatment of World Trade Center related ailments are moving forward with an expected WTC Prescription Card to be introduced by the end of the year. This no co-pay prescription card will be available to treat selected prescriptions for active and retired firefighters in the WTC Medical Monitoring Program. Note that you are in this program through your FDNY annual medical if you worked at one of the following places between September 11, 2001 and September 12, 2002:
- World Trade Center Site (the World Trade Center Site is defined as anywhere below a line starting from the Hudson River and Canal Street; east on Canal Street to Pike Street; south on Pike Street to the East River; and extending to the lower tip of Manhattan)
- Fresh Kills Landfill
- New York City Morgue or the temporary morgue on pier locations on the West Side of Manhattan
- Barges - between the West Side of Manhattan and the Fresh Kills Landfill (or in a firehouse within this zone) As more information becomes available you will be kept updated.
2. UFA Contract Update
The last contract negotiation session took place on November 6. Steve Cassidy presented an update regarding current negotiations to all members present at the November 9 Union Meeting. See your Delegate for information.
3. Refund of FICA Deductions re LODI Medical Leave
Thirteen years after the initial request, an agreement has finally been reached with the IRS concerning FICA. The IRS has agreed to reimburse the City and its affected employees (FFs) for FICA (Social Security/Medicare) deductions taken during LOD medical leaves of less than six months duration. The reimbursement for FFs will retroactively cover the period from 1989 through 2005. The City's Office of Payroll Administration (OPA), not the FDNY, will be responsible for administering the refund program. The FDNY published an OPA info sheet in Supplement #69 to DO #87 (distributed to all Delegates at the November 9 Union Meeting) explaining how to apply for the refund and answering anticipated questions regarding the refund program.
You will receive a 1099-int form with your refund. Only the interest received is taxable (in the year received). No amended returns for past years required. OPA will be sending out consent forms and letters by the end of this year to all eligible FFs and retirees explaining the refund process and years entitled to a refund. You have 60 days from the date of the letter to return the consent form to the City. The City expects it will take at least six months from the time the City submits the employee consents form to the IRS until the City receives the money. The City has not yet announced how long it will take to process payment to each member. The OPA can be reached by email Lodi_FICARefund@payroll.nyc.gov, telephone 212-669-2333 or fax 212-669-3377. You can fax inquiries, but NOT signed consent forms. Consent forms must be mailed or hand delivered to: Office of Payroll Administration, FICA Refund Claim Unit, 1 Centre Street Room 200N, New York, NY 10007. The UFA strongly urges you to mail it Certified Return Receipt. You will not be paid if you miss the deadline!!!
4. Seagrave Apparatus Door Latch Repairs...Finally
The Dept reports it has begun to install new door latch devices designed to prevent firefighter ejections on all FDNY Seagrave Engines and expects to have all apparatus completed before the end of the calendar year. These repairs are a direct result of UFA press releases, interviews and TV appearances following the UFA's release of a secret internal FDNY safety report. This detailed report from the Chief of Safety to the Fire Commissioner explained the problem and what needed to be done to fix it. It shows that that since earlier this year, the top brass at the Fire Department have known that a manufacturing defect found in virtually the entire FDNY engine fleet was the cause of ejecting a firefighter from the apparatus, yet they had not taken action to fix this problem. President Cassidy highlighted the report in a press conference demanding that all affected pumpers be repaired, and questioned why, more than five months after the accident, Commissioner Scoppetta had not taken corrective action recommended by the Department's highest ranking safety chief who lead the investigation. All members are reminded of the importance of following all safety guidelines while responding, including donning Personal Protective Clothing prior to boarding the apparatus and using seat belts any time on board a moving apparatus.
5. Members Now Keep Jury Duty $$
Recording Secretary Joe Miccio reports that pursuant to Labor Management meetings with the Dept, members are no longer required to remit to the Dept any pay received for performing jury duty on regular days off. (Members are still required to remit submit to the Dept payment received for performing jury duty on days scheduled to work.) Also, members are not required to remit to the Dept any payment received for travel expenses. Per DO #93: PA/ID 1-96, Section 9, has been changed to reflect the above policy change.
6. City Agrees to Not Collect War Vet Housing & Meals $$
UFA V.P. Jim Slevin Reports that pursuant to pressure generated by the UFA and other affected unions against City Hall, the Mayor announced on Veteran's Day that the value of military food and housing allowances will no longer be included in computations of the income that has to be repaid to the City. Prior to the announcement, some members owed as much as $200,000. City officials report this will reduce member debts by an average of 40%. The result is that all money for housing and meals paid to UFA members activated by the military will no longer have to be repaid to the City. The changes will cost the City an additional $24 million. Repayments will be calculated solely on gross base pay that members receive while serving in the military. The recalculations will also be applied retroactively to all members who signed up for the extended benefits, according to the city. Additionally, DCAS has started a plan to provide free tax advice to assist eligible veterans enrolled in the city's Extended Military Benefits Package. The service will be provided by H & R Block and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service at any of their branches in the metropolitan area.
7. Election Day Results
UFA Vice President/Legislative Chairman Jim Slevin and the UFA Executive Board thanks all members who helped spread the word and voted in support of candidates backed by the UFA, and those in particular who volunteered on Election Day to help. The candidates we supported have expressed their gratitude to the membership for the support. Having elected officials that support issues which are important to NYC Firefighters is a key component to enacting firefighter friendly legislation, and also in shooting down proposed legislation that will not serve our members' interests. An update was provided by VP Slevin at the November 9 Union Meeting.
8. Grievance/Arbitration Update
UFA Recording Secretary Joe Miccio and UFA Labor Attorney Mike Axelrod report that the last Medical Leave Lifts hearing took place on September 27. Additional hearings are scheduled on December 18 & 21 before arbitrator Al Viani with Commissioner Cruthers' examination to continue and Chief Cassano to testify. Other open cases include: E75/L33 Involuntary Transfers Grievance, Meal Period Improper Practice, Random Drug Testing Improper Practices (Challenge of changes to reasonable suspicion AUC, Challenge to Random Drug Testing procedure, Challenge to exclusion of the UFA rep during the selection process of companies to be randomly tested). Also, an FDNY-UFA conference with an OLR mediator took place on November 6 for the Improper Practice case regarding Board Member exclusion from apparatus meetings at HQ.
9. Purple K Unit Training on OT
UFA Recording Secretary Joe Miccio reports from Labor-Management that all 6 FDNY Purple K Units and all 6 backup Purple K Units are receiving 9 hours of training on OT provided by FDNY instructors at the Nassau County Fire Academy.
10. Additional Units to Receive Per-Tour Chauffeur Differential
UFA Recording Secretary Joe Miccio reports that pursuant to Labor-Management meetings with the Dept that the following unit categories have been added to PA/ID 2/98, per DO #64/06 as units eligible for the chauffeur differential TPR mark on any tour activated for their designated capacities: Reserve Apparatus, SOC Support Unit, CPC Unit, Haz-Mat Tech Unit, Hose Wagon, Purple K Unit. This is in addition to Satellite, Foam, Brush Fire, Tactical Support, Collapse, Decontamination and High Rise Units. Make sure your Officer gives you a TPR mark whenever activated to operate any of these units.
11. Uniform Maintenance Non-Taxability Affidavit
It is extremely important that each member file the form with their Officer. Per Dept orders, "failure to properly complete and file an affidavit may result in the issuance of a corrected W-2 form that includes the Uniform Cleaning Allowance as taxable earnings". Affidavits and instructions may also be obtained by accessing the Department's Intranet. Audits will be conducted to ensure that affidavits are being completed and filed. See your Officer if you have any questions regarding this issue.
12. Self Mutual and RSOT Payback
UFA Recording Secretary Joe Miccio reports that due to an increasing number of tours that the Dept is operating at full manpower capacity, it has become more difficult for members to have approved payback of Self-Mutuals or a rescheduling of RSOT tours. Members are advised to submit IN WRITING all requests for repayment of Self-Mutuals and to document IN WRITING any time you are refused to reschedule a RSOT tour owed due to a group change. Keep a copy of all documented refusals. It is also recommended that a company journal entry is made documenting refusals. Member rights regarding Self-Mutuals and RSOT are spelled out on PA/IDs 3-94, 1/90 and 1-90 Addendum 4 respectively. PA/ID 1-90, section 11.2 specifically notes: "Firefighters with a group/vacation change which results in the opportunity for fewer hours of RSOT are authorized to work additional tours as needed by the Department for 96 hours of RSOT in the calendar year." Without proper documentation of refusal you can lose your rights to carry over RSOT tours to the following year, and you may be penalized for not repaying Self-Mutuals within 90 days.
13. UFA Constitution Amendments
All proposed UFA Constitution amendments were discussed and voted upon by all members present at the November 9 General Membership Union Meeting. Proposed amendment #2 was approved. Proposed amendments #1 & #3 were rejected. The complete text of the proposed amendments is contained in 65-2 #60 of 2006.
14. UFA Parking Placards: Only from Your Delegate!!!
Borough Trustees distributed the 2007 UFA Parking Placards to Delegates at the November 9 Union Meeting. The ONLY way to get a Placard is through your Company Delegate-as the Placard Permit numbers have been accounted for that way. Detailed members must contact their permanent assignment's Company Delegate. Battalion Aides should contact the Company Delegate in your house. Delegates must contact their Borough Trustee if additional placards are needed. Delegates should return their company roster form (which was enclosed with placards) with each member's placard permit # listed to the UFA Recording Secretary's office at 212-683-4359 (or 212-683-0710 if busy), or by mail with the envelope enclosed with the placards. Roster corrections should also be made on this form. If a placard is lost or stolen, insure the member files a complaint report with PD. This is required before being issued a replacement. Any use by unauthorized persons can now be traced back to the original person it was issued to for firehouse and/or law enforcement verification. Please insure you post Special Parking Placard 65-2 #68 (attached to November 9 President Report) in your firehouse.
15. Missing UFA Parking Placards: Police Reports
Any parking placard permit numbers that are reported missing will be reported to the police on a Complaint Report. Any unauthorized person caught in possession can be arrested and investigated as to how they obtained the placards. Persons involved with stealing U.S. Mail or illegally supplying Parking Placards to others WILL be prosecuted by the UFA to the fullest extent of the law. Non-firefighter use of UFA placards in the past has caused legitimate concern among law enforcement and traffic agents in respecting firefighter vehicle parking privileges near quarters. Non-firefighters with UFA Placards have been arrested for impersonating a firefighter. Security features were added to insure OUR vehicles are afforded every courtesy-not anyone else!
16. 2007 UFA Workchart Calendar - Packed with Good Info!
The UFA would like to thank Mike Block and his firm for covering the entire cost of printing the 2007 UFA Workchart Calendar. UFA Recording Secretary reports that calendars for each company were distributed to all Delegates at the November 9 Union Meeting, one for each company member and a few extra for the firehouse. It is designed to give members better access to UFA info and other services. Familiarization with the flow chart on the rear cover, 'Getting Your Problems Solved with UFA Help' makes it easy to get help. The UFA Security Benefits Fund (SBF) & Life Insurance section lists email addresses for getting your questions answered re Prescription Drug, Optical, Dental, Anesthesia, Hearing Aid, UFA Life Insurance and other SBF issues. The FDNY Telephone Numbers section includes City Medical Plan numbers such as HIP, GHI, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, FDNY's City Medical/Health Plans info, and much more. The UFA Contact Info section includes the UFA web address, general, legal and PR office numbers. It also includes various UFA fax and email addresses, including the Recording Secretary, Trustees and the Health & Safety/Sgt.-at-Arms. The Medical Office section includes phone numbers and important info to get Line-of-Duty Prescription Drug $$ reimbursement, and the proper address to give to medical care providers if injured on duty to insure YOU do not receive the bills. The inside front cover includes phone numbers of all companies, battalions & divisions-noting which share quarters. Each month posts your workchart and info for getting your events published in 65-2s, and also for documenting unresolved work problems. Keep a copy handy!
17. UFA Scholarship Fund Awards
The UFA Scholarship Fund mailed $600 scholarships in October to all eligible members and dependents who filed by the deadline. Due to growth in fund revenues from member contributions, fund raising and investment returns, this year's scholarships have increased $100 per applicant above the previous year's $500 distributions.
18. UFA Board Members Address Retiree Conference
The Broward County Retirees Association hosted a Retirees Conference November 13, 14 & 15th. The UFA & UFOA Executive Boards participated. Much inaccurate and undocumented information has been circulated over the past few years regarding retired member benefits. Health care carriers, our pharmaceutical benefit manager (Pharmacare), plus the UFA's Retired SBF consultant attended to discuss long term projections on the increasing costs of prescription drugs. A large turnout of UFA and UFOA retirees participated in the conference.
19. U.S. District Court Allows Claims of Injured 9/11 Rescue Workers to Proceed
On October 17, 2006, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein issued an important ruling allowing the claims of firefighters sickened by dust and contamination at the World Trade Center disaster site ("WTC Site") to proceed against the City and other defendants. The Court refused a request by the defendants, including City contractors responsible for debris removal operations at the WTC Site, to dismiss the cases. These defendants urged that the Court grant them "immunity" or blanket protection from the lawsuits. They argued that since their efforts were a "good faith" response to an act of war, any failure to provide rescue personnel with appropriate, effective respiratory protection should be overlooked. The Court rejected these arguments, and recognized that "the workers at the site were presented with a dangerous environment...threatening their health and safety." If the responders are injured from their service at the WTC Site, the Court reasoned, "their claims deserve to be heard." Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo P.C., general counsel for the UFA, is one of the law firms named liaison counsel on behalf of injured workers in the WTC Site litigation. You are encouraged to contact the firm immediately if you are suffering from an illness or injury you think may be connected to your service at the WTC Site. Please contact Michael Block, Esq. or Andrew Carboy, Esq. at (212) 732-9000 if you have any questions or are interested in bringing a claim.
20. City Health/Medical Plan Transfer Period
Per Dept Orders, the transfer period for active City employees ended November 17, 2006. (Retiree transfer period is ends November 30). The new health plan chosen or any change in optional benefits will become effective January 7, 2007. Once you submit the ERB form, the transfer is irrevocable. Questions? Contact the FDNY Health Benefits Unit, Camille Isaacs at 718-999-2196 or Charles King at 718-999-2171. Updated benefit info can be obtained on the web at www.nyc.gov.html/olr or on the FDNY Intranet. Information is also available in your company's Delegate Manual.
21. Mid-Year Health Plan Cost Increases
The Health Plan carriers operate on a calendar year January 1st to December 31st. The City operates on a fiscal year June 30th to July 1. As a result, Health Plan increases can occur in July, while plan transfers take effect in January. If a mid-year health plan cost increase causes a significant financial hardship on your family, contact the FDNY Health Benefits Unit, Camille Isaacs at 718-999-2196 or Charles King at 718-999-2171, to check for plan change exceptions and options.
22. UFA Optical Vendors May No Longer Use Your SS#
Changes have been made to the UFA data software to reduce possibility of identity theft. You are no longer required to provide UFA Optical Venders your full social security number when ordering or obtaining eyeglasses. A new procedure was instituted on October 30th. The following information is required for member eligibility: Last 4 digits of member's SS#, 1st initial of member's last name, member's DOB. The following information will be required for dependent eligibility: Last 4 digits of member's SS#, first initial of member's last name, first initial of dependent's first name, dependent's DOB.
23. UFA Dental Plan Transfer Period
Healthplex, which manages the UFA Dentcare program (no out-of-pocket) & UFA Self Insured plan (pay & reimbursement), was present at the November 9 Union Meeting to distribute literature and answer questions. Dental Transfer Period for active and retired members ends December 30th. Changes become effective on January 1, 2007. To request an application call or write to the UFA SBF office. The updated UFA SBF Booklet, which explains your dental coverage options, is in your company's Delegate Manual. Updated booklets of that chapter and were also distributed to all members attending the November 9 Union Meeting.
24. Retired WTC Volunteer Worker's Comp Coverage
Firefighters who were retired before 9/11/01 and "participated in WTC rescue, recovery or cleanup operations" are required to file the bottom half of form WTC 12 (you are eligible as a Volunteer) with the NYS Worker's Compensation Board before Aug 14, 2007 to be eligible for benefits from the recently signed legislation. A good source of questions and answers and a link to the form can be found at http://www.nycosh.org/environment_wtc/WTC/2006WCFactSheet.pdf. The preceding information has been verified with the Office of the General Counsel of the New York State Workers Compensation Board. This benefit does not preclude you from qualifying for the WTC Prescription Drug Card.
25. Military Activation & Returns
A list of all members who were activated for military duty and returned was published by the Dept on October 17 on Supplement #63 to Dept Order #84. Additional activations/returns were reported on DO numbers 86, 92 & 94.
26. Free Exam Training for FDNY Applicants
All candidates who have filed for the Firefighter written exam on January 20, 2007 are being offered a free seven-week FDNY Tutorial Program beginning the week of November 27, 2006. Visit the FDNY home page at www.nyc.gov/fdny (click on "Jobs & Employment) for locations and times.
Stephen J. Cassidy
Joseph A. Miccio