Benefits for KSC firefighters in jeopardy, with pay cuts potentially on the horizon
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Accusations that the contractor that manages NASA / KSC’s fire department has decided to cut pay and benefits for its firefighters – have caused representatives with the Transport Workers Union to picket outside of the Space Center’s Gate 3 by State Road 405.
The cause for the picketing is not NASA, but rather Chenega Infinity LLC a company that manages emergency services – including those provided by the firefighters at KSC.
“About four months ago, the union and Chenega came to an impasse, when that happened the company imposed their ‘best and final’ contract. Kevin Smith with the Transport Workers Union told SpaceFlight Insider. “Their ‘best and final’ contract included the following – about an 80 to 85 percent reduction in their retirement benefits, a 100 percent deletion of their sick leave which they no longer have and then a pretty substantial hit on any kind of overtime provisions.”
The impasse Smith noted, has been on-going for about the past four months.
Smith mentioned that the Union had attempted to reach an agreement with Chenaga, but the company was not willing to come back to resolve the matter and that they were not interested in continuing the discussion.
According to Smith, on July 10 NASA notified him that due to the fact the firefighters were without a contract that NASA had no provision to pay the firemen a wage. This is due to the fact that the wage is determined by the collective bargaining agreement. If the contract had been renewed (on Oct. 1, 2018) – it would have lasted for a year. Without a contract in place, the firefighters are looking at a substantial cut to their pay.
“We know that the firefighters will go from $27 per hour to $19 per hour,” Smith said.
He went on to say that NASA had stated it would go to the Department of Labor and do a wage and hours study. This possible cut in pay could occur on top of the firefighters losing their sick leave and retirement.
SpaceFlight Insider reached out to representatives at NASA and received the following response:
We are aware that there is a labor dispute between Chenega Infinity, LLC, the contractor for the Kennedy Space Center Protective Services Contract (KPSC), and Transport Workers Union of America, Guided Missile Local 525, the exclusive representative of fire services bargaining unit personnel whom Chenega Infinity employs.
NASA recognizes the legal right of contractor employees and unions to engage in collective bargaining and to lawfully strike and picket when the parties reach an impasse during labor contract negotiations. In accordance with Federal regulation and Agency policy, NASA has and will continue to remain neutral and impartial concerning any dispute between the parties, and will not undertake to influence or interfere with, in any way, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, or other good-faith communications between the parties to a labor dispute.
We have encouraged and will continue to encourage both parties to continue to work with Federal mediators to resolve their differences. We value the essential services that the KPSC contractor and its employees provide and look forward to a timely and equitable resolution of this matter.
The Transport Workers Union is not alone in protesting these events with the International Association of Machinists and Areospace Workers also weighing in on the subject:
Smith noted that NASA had sent a letter that stated that the picketing of Gate 3 was not allowed and that he decided to ignore the letter.
“They (NASA) is saying we’re on strike, we’re not on strike. This is simply an informational picket which is protected by the First Amendment and they told me that I could not stand and profess this at any location near State Road 405 and Gate 3 and I simply disagree,” Smith told SpaceFlight Insider. “They believe they have the authority to tell me where I can stand and I don’t agree.”
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.
I am very sorry for the plight of the firefighters at KSC. For several years I had the honor of being in charge of the fire department as the Wackenhut Services, Inc. Director of Fire and Emergency Services. I will keep my fingers crossed that some kind of integrity prevails and Chenega Infinity bargains with honesty not profit in mind.