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Perspective: DFW Employees

Perspective: DFW employees shed more light on department

Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Apr 20, 2016

Anonymous letter comes to WON regarding hatcheries, management, union rules being ignored

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The following perspective was sent to WON as a written letter, unsigned, and after being scanned here at WON, is being printed in its entirety with no significant editing.


To whom it may concern at Western Outdoor News,


I represent a collective of employees who are tired of seeing the Department of Fish and Wildlife do as they please and operate the department a certain way. In March, you ran an article regarding DFW employees loving their jobs, but thinking the bosses are mismanaging the way the department is being run. I am enclosing some thought from some employees and hoping to fill in some missing gaps of that article. I also hope that this helps WON to investigate why trout hatcheries throughout the state are going broke "all of a sudden."


From mismanagement of funds being that $24 million dollars is missing out of the HIFF (Hatchery Inland Fisheries Fund). DFW sent hatchery managers, key employees and fish pathologists to a fish feeding class (which fish culturists have been doing exceptionally well for years) in an effort to save money on fish food. The common narrative that goes with this is that the cost of fish food was the major cause of the budget deficit, which is not the reason behind this. Instead of sending the program managers (who just received a 42 percent raise) to a finance class to learn how to budget and better save money, they chose to try to "address" the budget crisis like this. The mismanagement comes in other forms as well. From micromanaging what employees spend on their uniform allowances.


Requiring that staff go to "all staff training" which takes money from fisheries to fund these "outings."


We, the staff, keep hearing that we are in a budget crisis and yet they required us to attend this all staff training two years ago and they are requiring that all staff attend training again in May of 2016. Only this time we will be stay at the Granlibakken conference center in Tahoe city.


Changing the name of DFW from DFG to eliminate the "wild west” outlook over a natural resources agency was a cover-up and another example of mismanagement of money within the department, and now they are doing to the "boots on the ground employees” with the micromanagement of our uniform allowances and forcing us to cash out CTO which was given in exchange for overtime. Some of these same people who did not keep up on the environmental impact reports (EIRs) which require us now to plant sterilized trout which do not allow them to reproduce on their own. These fish grow slower than the diploid trout we used to stock and cost more money to raise. It seems as if these people making the decisions are dismantling hatcheries one decision at a time with no regard for anyone who may get in the way of “their plan." Please take a look at what is attached and hopefully this will help in the investigation as to what is truly going on with DFW.


DFW is in the preliminary stages of eradicating the Eel River strain of steelhead trout in the American River, and putting a lesser strain in its place. The natural resources have evolved and it is the survival of the fittest. Not only are key personnel leaving DFW, but the citizens of California are leaving also. We just wonder where the priorities lie with the upper management of the department, with private agendas or the environment.


Senior Hatchery Supervisor


CDFW needs someone in the Senior Hatchery Supervisor's position who knows hatcheries and has their best interest in mind. We need someone who has first-hand experience and knowledge from working within the hatcheries. How could someone who has never been a supervisor or has never worked for the hatcheries be in charge of four facilities and multiple employees? Why do we have to train the acting Senior Hatchery Supervisor? We have been asked to "help the new acting senior as he learns.” If this becomes official then he will be receiving a 42 percent raise. Why is it just in Region 2? By losing this position, it takes away upward mobility and a promotional step from the hatcheries. Why does the new position have such a big pay increase ($7,963-$9,899 per month)? Losing Positions Fish and Wildlife Technician: Why didn't the Region 2 disclose they were taking the F&W Tech position away from hatcheries and would be turning it into an Environmental Scientist position at Region 2? Why is the RPA already pending for the Environmental Scientist position? Not only will losing this position increase the workload, but it will also take away the possibility of obtaining a Fish Habitat Assistant position. This is a promotional step for us as Fish & Wildlife Technicians. By losing this position, it puts stress and labor on a smaller workforce and brings the morale down. This is a serious safety issue. Someone could get hurt from being overworked. This is why we need CTO and vacation. Having more employees creates better opportunities to be able to use our CTO and vacation and keep the leave balances down.


CTO


Why did the Regional Manager of Region 2 cash out our CTO when employees can have 240 hours on the books for as long as they want? This violates the Union contract. If we are in a budget crisis, it does not make sense to cash us out using more hatchery funds. Not only do the employees not want to be cashed out, they are taxed almost 50 percent. This also costs the department more money when they cash out CTO rather than letting the employees use it for days off. Having less people creates more opportunity to earn more unauthorized CTO.


Budget


We were told there was a hiring freeze just for the trout hatcheries and are unable to backfill the F&W Tech position because of the low budget. Personnel money should not be used to buy fish food. Why, in a budget crisis, would you use hatchery money to fund two cross-functional trainings? Why in a budget crisis would you use hatchery money to fund two cross-functional trainings? We had paperwork in to receive a new forklift and a new truck and were unable to purchase these items due to the money being used for the cross-functional training. This also leads to more manual labor and is a huge safety issue. It causes less fish to be planted and a lack of efficiency. Fishing generates revenue!


Pay


Our duty statements and classifications were created in the 1960s.


New duties include: Spawning endangered species LCT, KOK, triploiding, tagging, clipping fish, shocking fish, E boat, backpack shocker, fish feed studies, water quality, fish vaccinating and treating, Hazmat respirator chemicals, invasive species monitoring and eradication, stream surveys, installing, screens, ladders, weirs, fish ladders, screens, and fish rescues. Fish Culture: eggs to fish rearing, grading, planting by truck and airplane. Knowledge of drum screens, UV, chillers, raceways, round tanks, deep tanks, and plumbing.


PR, concrete, carpentry, mechanics, painting, landscaping, welding metal fabrications, various equipment operating, forklift, boom lift, commercial license, fish crowders, fish pumps, dump truck, back hoe, plumbing, electrical, sawyer.


Our duty statement and classification needs to be changed due to increased job duties and responsibilities. It's more labor intensive and scientific now. There needs to be a new salary evaluation so we can live and eat. The 2 1/2 percent raise over three years does not even cover the cost of living nor is it the 42 percent raise that department heads received this year. It feels like the budget crisis is being forced upon us. Having a class on how to feed fish isn't going to solve the budget crisis.


Closing Hatcheries


We have heard rumors that some hatcheries may be closing down. Is this true? Which hatcheries are proposed to being shut down and why? Are you planning to relocate personnel from those hatcheries, and if so, how is this going to affect our position?


Uniform Allowance


Only being able to buy boots every 18 months is an area of concern. You can't say how long it takes per individual to wear boots out as long as you are under the standard of $450 per year. We work out of the office 95 percent of the time. We work under extreme weather conditions with uneven terrain daily. Our feet are wet and dry all day long which allows the glue to crack and the soles to separate and causes the tread to wear down. Putting a $100 limit and 18-month timeframe creates a serious health and safety issue. This violates our Union contract.


Main Point


We want to bridge the gap of mistrust between hatcheries and the Region. Come out, get to know us, see what we do and see that we are not just numbers on a piece of paper. We are people just like you trying to do our job that we are passionate about, love and were hired to do.




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