WDSU Digital Team
Updated: 6:03 PM CST Feb 11, 2020
NEW ORLEANS —
Vacation and leave have been canceled until further notice for all New Orleans firefighters, city officials confirmed Tuesday.
The decision comes amid a battle between the union that represents the city’s firefighters and the fire department’s leadership over the issue of overtime conditions.
A spokesperson from the city confirmed that the move to cancel the vacations and leave was made “to ensure public safety for our residents and visitors.” New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell said the decision will ensure more firefighters are “available to respond to the community’s request for service.”
The New Orleans Fire Fighters Association first made public the decision to cancel all firefighter vacation and linked it to their calls for the city and the fire department to recognize the “dangerous fatigue and working conditions” of the city’s firefighters.
“In response to the firefighters’ plea for relief from a crushing schedule of up to 96 hours a week, and moments after a press conference where he minimized the work of firefighters and accused them of exploiting the city, Chief McConnell, effective immediately, canceled all firefighters’ vacation until further notice,” the union said in a statement.
City officials said the directive excludes employees who have made financial vacation commitments and only requires firefighters to work their regular schedule. City leaders stressed mandatory overtime has not been ordered at this time, but the directive calls for mandatory unscheduled overtime if there are not enough firefighters to relive the staff on duty when shifts change.
The city statement goes on to say:
“As long as firefighters report for work on their regularly scheduled shift, there should be no need to enact the mandatory overtime policy. “The cancellation of vacation is a temporary directive. It will be rescinded as staffing increases or if firefighters agree to work voluntary overtime shifts.”