The letter states that the changes in policy would increase morale and improve the department as a whole. The recommendations include:
* A repeal of section 2.18 from the DFD Standard Operating Procedures, which is in conflict with the city charter.
* Re-enlistment in the educational incentive pay provided by the state of Tennessee.
* Review of the inconsistencies in the "city retirement plan regarding the buyback that the retirement board doesn't appear to acknowledge".
* Change in culture at the DFD so that "everyone has to go by the same rules and everyone gets treated with (the) respect that they deserve".
However, Veal and the city are not quickly folding under the pressure of a union. In a response letter sent to Cryer dated Thursday, Oct. 11, Veal refused to acknowledge the presence of a union representing firefighters. Veal's brief letter states:
"I respectfully advise you that the Dyersburg Fire Department does not, and will not, recognize your union or any other organization purporting to represent Departmental personnel or to negotiate terms of employment on their behalf. I am opposed to any third party attempting to intervene between my firefighters and my staff."
Veal concludes the letter by stating that he will continue to manage and administer the department through direct communications between command staff and personnel. A copy of the letter was sent to Dyersburg Mayor John Holden and the city aldermen. In addition, the letter was posted at all three fire department stations.
The State Gazette asked Holden if the city is in support of Veal's letter in response to the union.
"The City fully supports Chief Veal's position as set forth in his letter," said Holden in a written statement.
Holden did not say whether or not the city would address the concerns set forth by Cryer, but did state that the city would continue to rely on Veal, as head of the fire department, to manage his personnel and to administer policies and procedures in a fair, appropriate and lawful manner.
Holden did speak to why the city no longer participated in the state's educational incentive pay program, saying that the city terminated participation prior to 2000 due to inconsistencies between the city's in-house program and the state's program. Furthermore, the city experienced difficulties in maintaining the schedules and curriculum of the state program with the city's schedule of work assignments and paid leave. Holden also alluded to the unreasonable burden on the fire department staff in administering two separate training programs simultaneously. Under the program firefighters received anywhere from $300 to $600 in bonus money through the state for completing certain training criteria.
"The administration of the Dyersburg Fire Department believes its existing in-house training program is superior to that of the state and more economical and efficient to provide than that of the state," said Holden.
Dyersburg Alderman Bob Kirk, who chairs the public safety and fire committee, expressed to the State Gazette his disappointment with the firefighters that had chosen to join IAFF as well as his support for Veal.
"Chief (Veal) has an open-door policy," said Kirk. "I cannot understand why they didn't take their concerns to him or bring it up to the committee's attention."
However, he remained firm and resolute that the city had no intentions of negotiating with the union.
"We have no intentions of recognizing that organization," said Kirk. "If there are problems that need to be addressed, we will address them, but we do not have to recognize the union and we will not recognize the union."
The IAFF originally chartered the DFD as a union in September 1973. At the time, the local chapter was assigned union number 2269. According to Todd, he began meeting with Cryer and several others firefighters a month ago to discuss re-affiliation. Todd stated that after two meetings and several phone calls, the "super majority decided they wanted to re-affiliate". He further commented that the individuals he met with mentioned concerns with the city's retirement program as well as some other items.
"Legally they do not have to recognize the local, but we hope that they would as we have a lot to offer," said Todd.
He added that although the IAFF hopes the city will change its mind, this is not new territory for the organization, which services 40 city fire departments across Tennessee. Of those 40, only three have local agreements with their cities but most have developed some sort of relationship with their unions and he hopes Dyersburg will do the same.
According to the IAFF website, it represents nearly 300,000 full-time professional firefighters and paramedics nationwide who protect 85 percent of the country's population. The organization considers itself the primary advocate for providing firefighters and paramedics with the tools they need to perform their jobs. It also states the organization works to provide a strong voice in the development and implementation of new training and equipment, and has worked to ensure proper staffing of fire and emergency medical service departments throughout the nation.
Some information for this article was obtained through www.iaff.org.