Firefighters’ meal allowance among points of discussion as contract negotiations continue

Contract negotiations are underway for Honolulu’s first responders including police and firefighters.

For the Honolulu Fire Department, KHON2 learned there were issues with the union about firefighters meals.

KHON2 looked at HFD’s budget, and found food costs average $1 million a year. HFD and the union says having their meals paid for is necessary.

During a 24-hour shift, firefighters have to be ready to go at a moments notice. This might mean eating breakfast lunch and dinner can be an after thought. Fire fighters are given money for one meal a day.

Robert Lee, head of the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, says that may be the only meal they get, “So having the meal money available and being able to at least make one meal whenever we have the time is real important factor.”

For decades part of HFD’s budget has included money for meals.

This year, the department is expecting to spend more than $1.2 million on food.

The breakdown is $10 per firefighter per 24-hour shift.

The money is deposited quarterly into 133 checking accounts, which, according to Lee, the fire fighters keep pooled together until it’s time for a trip to the store. “The way it’s allocated now is really important because a lot of times there is no guarantee we will be in the station, and because we are on duty for 24-hour shift and our firefighters have to respond it doesn’t matter day or night whether it’s mealtime or not the meal time.”

HFD says most of the time firefighters are able to stretch the $10 a day into three meals, and learn to cook in the process. The last three years the million dollar budget has gone up slightly. According to HFD, this has the full support of the chief.

Lee says, the benefit will stay the way it has been in years past, “Because we operate as crews the meals are prepared as crews, so it’s really adds to the working environment in the camaraderie and having our companies eat together and work together.”

The firefighters union told says it’s hoping for a new contract to be finalized in the beginning of next month. HFD and the union have agreed that the meal benefits for firefighters will remain in place.

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