Numbers show firefighters abusing sick days

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Council members say they're not attacking firefighters and they respect their work, but they don't respect the fact the mayor and the union can't come together in a time when money is so tight.

Councilman Kemp Conrad said, "When you got six times more people out on the first and last work day than you do on the one day where if you don't come to work you get paid, then that shows something's wrong"

A shocking number of firefighters are currently using their sick days to extend their weekends, but it seems no one is sick on holidays for the holiday pay.

"People say, 'Oh you're attacking the firefighters.' I'm not saying there is rampant abuse, I'm saying the policy is broken," Conrad said.

This policy was agreed to by the union and the Wharton administration, but now Conrad says it's time to come together on a new deal, because the current "egregious policy" is being abused.

The cost of these sick days is up 40 percent in the fire department, compared to 12 percent across the rest of city government, which is a red flag.

Alvin Benson is the Director of Fire Services for the City of Memphis.

He said,  "I'm not naive enough to think it doesn't happen in the department, I know it does, but we have to have the tools to work with to bring to reform in that area."

Benson says he's been asking for a new deal for three years because he can't afford cuts to the budget that take boots off the ground. And he can't afford to pay his crew overtime, so instead they pull trucks off the street.

Wednesday, two trucks were out of service because of firefighters calling out sick.

Benson added, "Times are changing. So we have to make some tough choices, which includes MOUs and policies and how we can best affect those things for the city."

Both sides brought up the idea of a short term disability program for firefighters who get hurt on the job, that way they don't have to use their sick days, which could help cut costs for the city.


  • Josh

    I guess has nothing to do with riding in a confined red box with a 140,000 sick people a year. That couldn’t be it . When did the public start hating fireman they didn’t blow your tax dollars the finger is getting pointed in the wrong direction. They acquire sick time just as every other city employee . They just work 1 1/2 times more hours than other employees so the gain more. Everyone should know the truth the news is putting out lie after lie so disgusting

  • Josh

    And if some one has gained a year of sick time that means they are not abusing the policy so why punish them for not using it crazy you do right and get screwed. Media can make everyone look bad

  • Jc

    This is another poorly researched, biased article from Molly Smith. Maybe someone should let her ignorant self ride on a unit and a truck for a month to realize what she’s writing about. Very few people actually abuse sick time. One day off is 24 hours, and you can’t work with a broken bone or injury. Not to mention the amount of nasty diseases and infections these men and women come into contact with daily. Please do some research next time and hope to God you never need the Memphis Fire Departmet with how bad you trash them.

  • JT

    I have a idea. How about Kemp Conrad and Molly Smith come on out and ride on a inner city ambulance for 24 hrs and then ride on a inner city fire equipment for 24 hrs and then back on the ambulance for 24 hrs just like the firefighters have to. Then report about how they feel.

  • Just Me

    Firefighters deserve whatever benefits they receive. They are our heros and when we call for help they’re coming. Support our firefighters we need them.

  • BigDagoFire

    For gods sake do some investigative reporting for a change ! We are 24 hour employees, we work 240 hours a month, 8 hour employees work 160 hours a month. When a 24 hour employee takes off sick the use 24 hours sick time, when an 8 hour employee takes off sick they use 8 hours sick time. Now can you see how the numbers can be made to say what anyone wants? Kemp Conrad will say anything to sensationalize his point of view on a subject!! He talks about cut this and cut that but yet he still gobbles up his catered lunch’s and is one of the driving forces behind the City providing tax payer money to private developments and pet projects!!

  • Blanche K

    Help me out here – I am guessing that up until now there was no “rampant” abuse of sick leave and this just started or, it has been an ongoing problem that negligent management has chosen not to address – UNTIL NOW, or it is not an ongoing problem and “chosen” sick leave stats and an inept “reporter” are being used by city administration to bias the public regarding the Fire & Police budgets/pension plans. It is not rocket science. If they have sick leave they have a policy and that policy has sections that address sick leave abuse. That means If abuse is occurring there are ways to address it. I am also guessing that policy is either a City Policy or a Fire Department Policy based on the City Policy.
    This is really about budgetary issues and amounts budgeted, possibly changing pensions/ retirements and retiree benefits. I have not yet heard a push for a police or fire personneI decrease but since both, in my opinion, are understaffed already we probably won’t. Just remember if they do start talking about closing stations, it could affect fire ratings and ultimately insurance costs (I only mention this because I have never heard or seen it mentioned.)
    It is amazing to me that in one breath they will talk about the dire need to make changes to the pensions and possibly cut retiree benefits and in the next breath they are recommending the funding of consultants, private entities, public entities and other pet projects. After all what’s another $500,000 here and $500,000 there? We have been told over and over again It is not really enough to matter.
    Apparent Annual Budgetary Procedures – Instead of addressing identified concerns when they should be addressed, go after police, fire and parks, and then when there is public outrage start layoffing part-timers, close recreation centers and then, low and behold announce a tax increase is the ONLY way to go. In the end, there will probably be some type of increase, employees and/or retirees will lose something anyway, the part-timers come back to work and the rec. centers are re-opened, and all will be right, until next year because they never addressed to real problem.
    Here’s some ideas for NOW and in the future – Consider ANY savings important, eliminate duplication of special interests and “feel good” projects, don’t fund anything new until budgeted items are funded, stop digging a hole that can’t be filled, swallow your pride and take a close look at what Shelby County (BALANCED BUDGET) is doing and how they are doing it, and remember who you work for.

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