Dispute Between Union, Orland Fire Over Coronavirus Benefits

ORLAND PARK, IL — The Orland Fire Protection District hasn’t been providing union firefighters benefits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the union that represents the firefighters says. But the district says in response that no firefighter has missed any benefit throughout the coronavirus crisis.

The district sent out a news release this week in response to one shared last Friday by the Orland Professional Firefighters Local #2754. The union, in a release signed by President Joshua Girdick, Vice President Jim Strzechowski, Treasurer Matt Giermala and Secretary Matt Delestowicz, says the district has “ignored the firefighters’ repeated requests for coverage” for six firefighters who were exposed to the coronavirus.

The federal act went into effect on April 1 and nine days later Girdick said he emailed Fire Chief Michael Schofield about the benefits being given to the Local 2754 members who he said were forced to hlose earned sick time while missing work due to their exposure to the coronavirus.

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On April 21, the union said they presented the district with a memorandum of understanding to agree to benefits afforded in the act, but four days later were informed the district had no interest in discussing them.

The union said they met with fire district administrators on April 26, when they were informed a response from the district would come May 4.

“On May 4, 2020, Local 2754 was advised that the Board of Trustees had yet to decide on providing benefits to members under the FFCRA,” the union statement read, noting a grievance filed on behalf of the six firefighters had been filed three days later.

The district says the news release from the union is “extremely misleading.”

In a response, Fire District Board President Chris Evoy said “no benefits have been denied as we have operated under the existing contract.”

“The parties have a binding contract that the district has honored which includes full staffing, even though calls are down by more than 30 percent,” was stated in the response.

“Not one firefighter has missed a day’s pay or a single benefit through the crises.”

Their stance is that all members who have tested positive for the coronavirus have their time covered with no use of sick time, with members who have tested negative being allowed to use the accrued sick time.

Girdick did not immediately have a confirmed number of positive coronavirus cases within the Orland Fire Protection District.

The board has also been in talks with the union on the additional benefits, Evoy said, “and the potential impact on the budget and taxpayers in this ever-changing pandemic must be considered carefully.”

From The Patch