Chief: Firefighters' limited strike poses no threat to Aviano base
Stars and Stripes June 11, 2003
AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy — A week into a limited strike by some local national firefighters, Aviano Air Base’s new fire chief says he’s satisfied the base is adequately protected.
Chief Master Sgt. David Donan said Tuesday that nine Italian firefighters continue to refuse to work overnight on base after talks with their union broke down over alleged unsafe overnight accommodations. But some shifting by Air Force firefighters and other civlian firefighters has plugged in the gaps.
“It hasn’t been a real impact on operations,” said Donan, who served as deputy fire chief at Aviano for more than two years before taking over the top duties June 1.
That said, Donan said he wishes the striking firefighters were back working full time.
“Any time you lose some of your most experienced firefighters, it’s not good,” he said. “We value their experience.”
Union representative Gianni Iandolo, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, said a few weeks ago that the local firefighters believed the room reserved for them to sleep during their 24-hour shift was unsafe. Fumes seeped in from the parked trucks nearby and there were several areas that didn’t conform to European regulations, Iandolo said. For example, he said, the ceiling is too low and the windows aren’t big enough.
Lorenzo Bertulazzi, another Italian and the base safety officer, agrees that there are some areas where there are violations, “but that is different from it being a risk for their health,” he said.
And he said the base and other inspectors not affiliated with the base have tested repeatedly for chemicals in the air and have never discovered anything harmful. He said the base has made several changes at the request of the firefighters, such as parking the trucks outside and ordering new doors for the building, but can’t realistically improve everything that doesn’t conform to the regulations.
Bertulazzi said the situation will change when the base opens its new fire station in early 2005.
Meanwhile, the base and the union have had talks, but have not made enough progress to keep the workers on the job around the clock. Currently, those on strike report for work at 8 a.m. and work until 10 p.m. They then leave and return to finish out their 24-hour shifts from 6 to 8 a.m.
Asked if he thought the strike might continue for a while, Donan said: “Potentially. I’d hate to think that, though.”