Blue Flu could lead to sick leave changes

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The fact that officers can even take so much sick leave has many questioning whether it’s time to change the policy and prevent another Blue Flu.

Hundreds of police officers and even firefighters have been calling in sick for days to protest cuts to their health care benefits.

The way things are structured now, it’s OK for officers and firefighters to call in for a day or two without having to answer for it. However, now with this Blue Flu and Red Rash, there may be some changes sooner or later.

The sick out is costing the city, and eventually, it could put you at risk. An On Your Side investigation uncovered the city is already paying a lot in overtime.

WREG discovered the city budgeted $22 million in overtime pay for the fiscal year that just ended. Most of that went to policeman and firefighters. One officer took home an extra $40,000 in overtime pay.

“I’ve been saying for a long time we need paid time off reform and this is an example of the policy of why I think we need simple reform,” said Memphis City Councilman Kemp Conrad.

Another issue is most of those calling out sick don’t have to worry about running out of sick leave because they’ve got a lot banked up. WREG found some city employees can earn up to 30 days of leave a year and can carry them over from year to year. The average Mid-South employee working in the private sector gets six days of sick time a year. Since the Blue Flu and Red Rash, the city is cracking down by having employees call a supervisor for every day they’re out.

“We have a more strict city policy which everybody ought to follow and that’s what we’re going to have to do,” said Mayor A C Wharton.

Conrad goes even further.

“There’s a lot of things at the city of Memphis that have been done the same way for a long, long time that have built up and we just need some reasonable reforms so we can keep the prosperity of the city going,” said Conrad.

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