February 15, 2022 – AFA files THC grievance after response from Chief Baker
Brother and Sister Firefighters,
When random drug testing was placed in our Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) in 2009, the AFA made sure to include the following provision to ensure firefighters were protected when taking medications under a valid prescription:
Section 2.D, page 75 of the 2017 CBA
“A Fire Fighter will not be disciplined for the use of a controlled substance for which the Fire Fighter has a valid prescription, provided the employee is using the controlled substance in compliance with the prescription and Department policy, and is not impaired on duty.”
This language is clear and therefore leaves nothing up to interpretation. Yet, Chief Baker will not commit to following the CBA with regards to valid prescriptions. So after much effort on the AFA’s part to try to solve this seemingly simple problem through discussion, the AFA filed a grievance where we are asking Chief Baker to commit to following the clear language of the CBA.
Click here for Chief Baker Response And by the way, the timeliness issue raised in Baker’s response is faulty. Please attend an upcoming Virtual Station Visit on Zoom for further explanation (every Wednesday at 10:30 AM and Thursday at 1:30 PM).
Below is the AFA’s response to Chief Baker which sends this issue to arbitration.
We are astounded by your response to this grievance. The grievance does not present a hypothetical or speculative concern. Several Austin fire fighters have confided in me that they are declining to follow their doctors’ medical advice because they are afraid that you will discipline them for doing so. The ability for Austin fire fighters to address their mental and physical health needs, by following treatment plans developed in conjunction with their medical professionals, without fear of being disciplined by the Department is an issue of utmost importance to the Association.
The AFA is only asking you to abide by the plain language of the CBA, and only after you announced that you may not follow the Contract’s language in regards to prescription THC. If you cannot provide members who suffer from PTSD the comfort they need to follow their doctors’ medical advice, by simply saying that you will follow the plain language of the Contract, what does this signal about the labor/management relationship as we head into bargaining?
Apparently, both labor and management will have much work ahead of us in order to achieve an agreement at the bargaining table.
The AFA requests that this grievance be submitted for arbitration.”
We will persist!
Please talk to your chain of command and ask them to advocate up the chain for Chief Baker to abide by the CBA and allow firefighters to address their mental and physical health needs, by following treatment plans developed in conjunction with their medical professionals that include legal medical THC, without fear of being disciplined by the Department.
IF you have any questions, please respond to this email.
President, Austin Firefighters Association