Ken de la Bastide On Jun 27, 2017
Anderson firefighters have been working mandatory overtime to cover a staffing shortage in the department.
June 27–ANDERSON, IN– The Anderson firefighters union is seeking answers to why the department is short on manpower, which is requiring mandatory overtime.
Cody Leever, president of Anderson Firefighters Local 1262, said Monday at the Anderson Board of Public Safety meeting that the Anderson Fire Department is budgeted for 112 firefighters, but is currently working with 106 firefighters.
The Safety Board tabled the request with Chairman Mike McKinley promising to get answers by the next meeting on July 10.
Leever said a provision of the current contract with the city allows the Board of Public Safety to hire firefighters when there is a vacancy within 48 hours.
He said the union has never used that provision and agreed to waive the 48-hour timeframe to allow safety board members to get answers on hiring plans by the administration of Mayor Thomas Broderick Jr.
“I met with Mayor Broderick and he plans to do some hiring,” he said. “But it has been delayed.”
Leever said firefighters are being required to work mandatory overtime and have been threatened with disciplinary action if they leave work.
“We’re short right now. We need bodies,” he said.
Leever said the department currently has 106 firefighters, which could be reduced to 104 within the next month. He said one firefighter is retiring and another has requested a disability pension.
Board member Nicale Rector asked whether Leever wanted the board to fill the six positions.
“Only the safety board can determine manpower,” Leever said.
City attorney Tim Lanane said the board could set the manpower level at 104.
“I’m confident the city will hire,” Leever said. “The administration won’t tell us when or how.”
During the administration of former Mayor Kevin Smith the number of firefighters included in the Fire Department budget was reduced from 132 by closing some stations and assigning a fire apparatus with an ambulance.
Rector asked Leever what he considered to be the bare minimum of firefighters needed to eliminate mandatory overtime.
Leever said he didn’t expect the city to increase the number of firefighters to the levels during the Smith administration, but that 112 were needed.
He said a benefit for the firefighters is that if they don’t use any of their sick days, they get a $500 bonus.
“They can quickly make $500 in overtime and then start calling in sick because they don’t want to work the extra shifts,” Leever said. “If we get back to 112, it will cut down on the overtime, which will save the city money.”
Leever said the union is hoping to get some answers on the hiring process.
He said the city could take six names from the eligibility list for employment and enroll the new hires in school by Aug. 1. Leever said it will take two to three months to complete the schooling.
“I will get some answers from the administration,” McKinley said.
Lanane asked for time for the administration to figure out the hiring process.
“You’ve put it on everyone’s radar screen,” he said.
The union and the Broderick administration reached a contract agreement earlier this year providing for a 3 percent pay increase in 2017, 2 percent in 2018 and 2019, and 3 percent in 2020.
The Anderson Police Department is also budgeted for 112 members. In March there were 105 working and two on military leave.
The department started the process to hire five new officers with testing to be completed this month. Once the five recruits are identified, they will be required to attend the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy and then spend 15 weeks with an APD training officer in the field.
Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.
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