FIRE DEPARTMENT: STAFFING MANAGEMENT

3A & 3B
FIRE DEPARTMENT: STAFFING MANAGEMENT

 


Problem Identification:
The Department’s staffing factor is disproportionately high. Substantial overtime and callbacks are still occurring and first-line apparatus is being taken out of service.

Recommended Action:
Reduce and control leave for Departmental personnel. Examine all absences from assigned emergency services minimum staffing posts and curtail the unnecessary absences.

Classification:
Cost Savings

Functional/Operational Area:
All Department operations

Estimated Annual Impact:
$3,000,000 – $5,000,000

Estimated Implementation Cost:
None

Barriers to Implementation:
Union contracts control both leave amounts and liberal scheduling policy. Institutional reluctance will impede curtailing unnecessary details/unnecessary assignments away from minimum staffing posts.

Projected Implementation:
Some changes can be accomplished immediately, although most will require modifications to existing labor contacts.

Next Step:
Audit position assignments and discontinue the policy of sending details away from minimum staffing posts. Reduce amount of holiday leave granted to emergency services personnel by converting leave to hours; grant same number of hours for uniformed personnel as civilian personnel. Take all leave scheduling issues out of future labor contracts, replace leave earning section with hours instead of days, and create levels comparable to other City employees and/or other jurisdictions’ fire departments.

Analysis:
The amount of leave (vacation and holidays) granted to BCFD emergency operations personnel is substantially higher than other area fire departments. According to Department officials, the high level of leave is the product of past labor negotiations and reflects decisions to grant additional leave in lieu of pay increases. Salary comparisons with comparable jurisdictions with similar workweeks, however, do not substantiate a major disparity in pay. Additionally, it appears that attempts were made to create leave parity with other City departments on a day-for-day basis. This was done without consideration of the different number of hours per day for fire personnel (average 12-hour day versus 7 or 8 hour day for non-fire personnel). Whatever the reason, the Department leave is excessive and results in unjustifiably high labor costs.

The granting of leave at the employee’s discretion further exacerbates the problem and contributes to substantial overtime, well in excess of approved budget levels. Furthermore, this necessitates fire suppression equipment routinely being taken out-of-service due to staffing shortages.

Compounding the shortage of staffing for emergency equipment is the practice of detailing or reassigning personnel to duties away from their assigned fire station to perform non-emergency functions. This practice often results in calling back personnel at premium pay (time and one-half) levels.