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Vilifying labor or management is bad for both

Given the current budgetary pressures, it is as important now as ever for fire department labor and management to strive for compromise and civility

Editor's note: Chief Adam K. Thiel knows full well how difficult labor relations can be; he also knows that labor and management can and do get along in the fire service. 

My guess is that there's a lot more to this story and we probably don't have all the facts of the matter.

From what's reported in this article, however, it's probably correct to assume there is, or has been, substantive disagreement between labor and management on a variety of topics.

Labor-management discord is nothing new in the fire and emergency services. The continued fiscal challenges facing many fire departments today can make it especially difficult to reach agreement on wages, hours, and working conditions — whether specified in a collective-bargaining agreement or codified in another way.

While we often think of labor and management as being on different "sides" of these issues in an adversarial process, I would suggest that there are many positive examples of cooperation and collaboration between labor unions and management in fire departments, and other industries, across the United States and Canada.

This is not to say it's easy, especially with the current economic climate. But my sense is that, now more than ever, both fire chiefs and labor leaders need to seek common ground — or at least strive to keep their relationships from turning sour.

The International Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Fighters jointly provide resources to fire chiefs and local unions under their Labor-Management Initiative. And in the interest of full disclosure, I am an IAFC/IAFF Labor-Management Initiative facilitator.

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