BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — The Kern County Administrative office and the Kern County Firefighter's Association have not been able to settle on a two-year contract after the two sides failed to agree on how to cut overtime spending.
The Firefighters Association voted against the county's offer last night, an offer that would have cut overtime pending by the department by $3.4 million.
Megan Person, director of Countywide Communications for Kern County says that negotiations for this agreement has been in the works since 2017.
“The changes that we are looking for would bring us more in alignment with what the federal requirements are, where we would only calculate overtime based on actual hours work,” said Person.
David Nelson, president of Kern County Firefighters Association says that the reason why they are unable to agree to these terms is because of the financial impact this would have on the firefighters.
“We are talking about a group of individuals who haven't had a cost increase or even a raise for the past 11 years,” said Nelson. "And they do use the little bit of overtime that they get towards that living, we have had inflation that has outpaced our wage.”
Nelson shares that the two parties are now deadlocked and will require a third-party mediator to reach an agreement.
“We are kind of excited over the fact that we are going to get an independent review of the information provided by both sides,” added Nelson.
If they are still unable to reach an agreement the Board of Supervisors has the option to impose the county’s current offer.
“It keeps us from having to make overall staffing changes and any changes to stations." said Person. "We are in overall structural deficit the fire fund is looking at $9 million deficit.”
Person also says that staffing isn’t the problem.
“We are not understaffed in the fire department so that’s not necessarily an issue of not having enough people,” said Person.
Nelson says otherwise.
“No, we don’t really have an overtime issue we have a staffing issue,” said Nelson. “If we were to hire the positions that were vacant, address employee retention to keep those individuals employed in the county, we wouldn't have those vacancies open that creates the overtime positions.”
The county says they will officially request a declaration of impasse from the Board of Supervisors on May 21.