As my IAFF cofacilitator and I completed delivering the first module of the four-day IAFC/IAFF Labor-Management Initiative program, a participant approached us and said something to the effect of, "Yeah, this is great stuff; we had a similar class a few months ago, but it's been a real challenge to put the concepts into practice."
Ding, ding, ding! We immediately realized that our labor and management colleagues in this particular fire department and IAFF local union didn't need the full four-day program. Instead, what they really needed was an LMI Technical Assistance engagement.
What is LMI technical assistance, you ask?
LMI Technical Assistance was developed to complement the LMI four-day program that forms the foundation of the overall Labor-Management Initiative.
Technical assistance is designed for the fire department that's experiencing an acute challenge where outside facilitators can help work through an intensive two-day session for the chief, union president and other designated members of their leadership teams.
Two LMI facilitators, one each from the IAFC and IAFF, work with the chief and union president to develop a customized, focused agenda to address issues of mutual concern and collaboratively arrive at feasible solutions. A work plan outlining the steps going forward is developed during the second day.
Technical assistance is ideal for fire departments and local unions that have taken the LMI course and are committed to developing a positive labor-management relationship, but can still use skilled assistance from facilitators to help make the LMI principles work in the real world.
We've also found that technical assistance benefits departments where relationships are such that one or the other partner (chief or union official) is reluctant to attend an LMI course but issues exist that need to be resolved.
It may sound complicated, but it's not. Each LMI Technical Assistance engagement is uniquely tailored to the needs, issues and resources of the participating fire departments and local unions. LMI facilitation teams have provided technical assistance in departments of all sizes and types. We've worked with chiefs, company officers and IAFF union leaders everywhere from hotel conference rooms to dining room tables in members' homes.
During a Technical Assistance program, both groups may work independently and then come together to identify issues of common concern and develop an action plan both partner groups agree on. Follow-up with the department after the two-day session ensures the action plan is moving forward and the internal relationships are improving.
While this type of service can be procured from consulting firms on the open market, it's available to IAFC members and IAFF local unions as a membership benefit at a fraction of the cost of hiring outside consultants. Moreover, the LMI facilitators are drawn from the fire and emergency service, representing both IAFC and IAFF, so they understand the issues, players and pressures you’re facing every day.
Getting back to my story—after a quick huddle, we spent the balance of our two days on site working together with labor and management to build on the foundation of their earlier knowledge and experiences; we helped them organize, define and structure their labor-management issues and relationships.
A few months later, at the biannual IAFC/IAFF LMI Conference in Phoenix, we ran into a couple of the participants who told us that, while they still had plenty of work to do, the technical assistance we provided helped move their fire department’s labor-management relationship forward through an especially tough spot.
We all have issues in our departments, but with LMI Technical Assistance, you don’t have to deal with them alone.
For more information on the LMI Program, LMI Conference and the Technical Assistance program, visit the IAFC's LMI Program webpage.