Council Member: City Time Off Policy Impacting Public Safety

(Memphis) The Memphis fire department says trucks are out of service because it doesn’t have the money to staff them.

One city councilman says the city’s time off policy is causing big problems.

News channel 3 dug into the city’s policy and the numbers may surprise you.

A battalion chief goes around and checks in with firefighters who call in to see if they’re OK or really sick.

Saturday, three trucks were taken out of service because 44 firefighters called in sick.

Mayor A C Wharton’s administration claims the fire department is having to brownout the trucks because of budget cuts, but Councilman Kemp Conrad claims if so many people didn’t call in sick, the department wouldn’t have to pay overtime.

“In the past when employees did not get pay raises the pay time off policy expanded and expanded. So we have a very generous vacation policy,” said Conrad.

Conrad says the Memphis Fire Department has to take trucks out of service because so many firefighters are calling in sick and the sick day policy is broken.

“There are so many paid time and days off, you have to have a lot more people in the compliment to provide services because they are out so much,” said Conrad.

The longer you work for the city, the more sick days you accrue.

If someone has been with the city for five years, they get ten vacation days in addition to 13 holidays and 12 sick days a year.

If they never use a sick day, they roll over, accruing to 60 sick days and the possibility of 83 days off in a year.

It goes much higher the longer you work for the city.

That doesn’t include the bonus days city workers can earn every year for not using vacation days.

Emergency personnel say they often need the time due to work related injuries.

The Memphis Fire department says any time it has to take a truck out of service because of staffing it’s a gamble.

“In one word it comes down to risk… assuming more risk,” said Fire Director Alvin Benson.

The fire department says it’s averaging about 35 out of 1,600 fire fighters out sick a day this month.

I spoke with Mayor Wharton’s office who says it is looking into the accusations of abuse and is in discussions about possibly changing that policy.


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