Union Tells Paid Firefighters Not to Volunteer in Chambersburg


Reprinted from www.Your4State.com
By Katie Kyros
November 15, 2011

Chambersburg rolled out its proposed budget for 2012 and the local fire department is facing major cuts. Now the union is getting involved, telling firefighters not to volunteer their services in the borough.

When the Borough Council approved a budget proposal cutting firefighter positions in Chambersburg, it also started a new battle with a powerful firefighters’ union.

“We believe that public safety will be in jeopardy,” says firefighter Patrick Martin. “It will increase response times to certain areas of the municipality.”

Chambersburg currently has 21 firefighters on staff. That number will be cut by eight and the remaining 13 will be moved to emergency medical services.  The borough will rely only on firefighters who work for free.

“To rely solely on that would be putting safety at risk,” says Martin.

The union is fighting back. The group is telling paid firefighters in the area they’re not allowed to volunteer for Chambersburg’s fire department.

A letter was sent to regional members of the International Association of Firefighters. It reminds them of the union’s bylaws and tell them not to volunteer in the borough of Chambersburg because these cuts are on the table.

“They’re not permitted to provide volunteer services in another work jurisdiction of an IAFF local affiliate,” says Martin.

Councilman Tom Newcomer says Chambersburg is going the way of many communities that only rely on volunteer fire protection.

“We’re kind of in a catch-22,” says Newcomer. “We go this way, well our constituency can’t, can’t afford it. We go the other way and not increase taxes, well, then somehow or another we’re going to make adjustments in the budget.”

However, if the union has its way, the borough’s fire department may be less reliable. The volunteer firefighters would not have full-time, professional experience.

“We’re not exactly sure what’s going to happen, it could very possibly go into litigation,” says Newcomer.

The police force is facing cuts as well. The council says it will cut costs by not filling the positions of those who retire.