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John, Employment Lawyer
Category: Employment Law
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Experience:  Exclusively practice labor and employment law.
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I am a representative for the "Regular Part-time Firefighters"

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I am a representative for the "Regular Part-time Firefighters" in a local Dayton area fire department. I put the title in quotes, because the reality is that we are full-time employees. We work the exact same 24 hours on, 48 hours off schedule as those who are called "Full-time" firefighters. The difference is that we are not in the union, are paid about half of what the "full-time" firefighters are paid, and get far less paid time off. I have been doing some research and I believe that we are actually legally covered by the collective bargaining contract in place. It states that the bargaining unit includes "All full-time employees of the fire department, including firefighters, lieutenants, captains, and fire prevention." and it lists those who are excluded, and "Regular Part-Time Firefighters" isn't listed as excluded. I believe that we are legally required to be covered by the contract, and therefore are entitled to be paid and get benefits according to the contracts terms. I need a lawyer who is an expert in public employee collective bargaining to let me know if I am interpreting things correctly and let me know what steps we need to take to get the pay we are due.
Hi, My name is XXXXX XXXXX I’m happy to assist you with your question today.

The exclusive remedy here would be for the union to file a "unit clarification petition" with the SERB. What the union would have to prove in the hearing is that material changes occurred to the part time FF positions to the point that should logically be placed in the bargaining unit. A hearing then occurs wherein the union and employer make arguments that the position is/is not part of the unit. You or other part time FFs may be required to give testimony. This is the union's exclusive remedy, however, employee's do not have a right to file a unit clarification petition without a union.

The only thing the part time employees could do individually is negotiate with the employer or create a union of their own to negotiate with the employer to represent the part time FFs exclusively.

I believe this answers your question. However, if you need clarification or have follow-up questions regarding this matter, I will be happy to continue our conversation – simply reply to this answer. If you are otherwise satisfied with my response, please leave a positive rating as it is the only way I am able to get credit for my answers. Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX wish you all the best with this matter.

Customer: replied 2 years ago.

So even though the contract already defines the bargaining unit as "All Full-time employees of the fire department, including firefighters..." and we are full-time employees who are firefighters, we have to go through the union to get it clarified? This is a messed up situation, because our job title is what causes the confusion. "Part-time" is only in our job title. It is not our job status. We are legally full-time employees. We were declared such by the Federal Department of Labor, who ordered the department to give us benefits since we are indeed full-time employees. We work the exact same schedule as the union firefighters. Our job descriptions are identical. The only difference is that we are not paid according to the contract. I thought that even if someone is not a part of the union the negotiated the contract, they can still be considered part of the bargaining, and must be represented by the union? The union is a joke as far as unions go. They have no desire to help us get equal pay, despite the fact we do the same job, because then they might have to take a pay-cut to even things out. So if they are the only ones who can rememdy this injustice, then we are screwed.

There is no legal definition of what is part-time versus full-time; these are lay terms. The DOL would order benefits because your work exceeds the number of hours under which the employer benefit policy covers you - usually thats 32 hours per week.

The union situation is different because they already agreed that that they do not represent employees with the title "part time FF" (whatever that term means versus full-time FFs). So, what the union is going to have to prove somehow is that even though you all are labeled part time, this was somehow not the intent when they agreed to not represent part-time FFs. You are correct that usually fire unions agree to this (part time of paid on call firefighters) so that they do not have to take cuts to wage or benefits. My suggestion then would be that you all exercise your own right to unionize under Ohio law and create your union of part time firefighters to negotiate wage and benefits equal to the "full time FFs".

Hope this helps. Let me know if I can be of further assistance. Thanks.
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Is it likely that we would be able to negotiate for wages and benefits equal to the "full time FFs"?

Honestly I think once you all got a petition for representation going with SERB the employer may concede that you are all part of the current "full time FF" unit because they can't fire you b/c you file a petition for representation (that would be illegal) and they'd not have a legit basis to offer you less than the "full-time FFs" because you're doing the same work...thus for sake of simplicity they wouldn't want to negotiate with two unions when they can negotiate with one. In any event, as I said, they'd have no basis to offer you less than FFs if you're doing the same work. The interesting question, as you point out, is whether the full time FFs wage and benefits come down.
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Customer: replied 2 years ago.

I honestly believe they could afford to pay us all what the "Full time" guys make now. They would have to cut other budgets, but they spend so much on such unnecessary stuff that I think it would be possible. Anyway, thank you very much for your advice. It has been very helpful!

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