SICKOUT? Roughly 25% of firefighters call out as labor conflict escalates

Union denies they organized the work action

Thomas Perumean
February 15, 2020 - 3:01 pm
Firefighter's union, NOFD, Mayor to meet soon



Roughly one-quarter of New Orleans Fire Fighters didn't show up for work today.

Instead they called out sick.  

Whether 25-percent of the force has come down with the flu or not remains to be seen.  

But it has sent a message to Fire Superintendent Timothy McConnell and Mayor LaToya Cantrell.  

RELATED: N.O. mayor LaToya Cantrell calls canceling firefighter vacations a win-win 

Union leaders deny they called for any kind of organized work action but they reiterate the issue at hand:  The New Orleans Fire Department has been perennially short staffed and something has to be done about it.  

Fire Fighters have said they will no longer work voluntary overtime, which has lead to some personnel working 96-hour weeks.  

In a chess move, Superintendent McConnell canceled vacations.  

And Mayor Cantrell doubled down by publicly calling the mandatory work orders a 'win-win'.

After that, McConnell did away with fire engines bringing up the rear of Mardi Gras parades.  

But fire personnel would still be inspecting floats and flambeaux equipment to ensure safety.

According to the Times-Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, the resulting shortage has resulted in four firehouse dispatching engines with just two crew members aboard--which the National Fire Prevention Association mandates three as a minimum.  

With just two fire fighters aboard, trucks can roll to the scene of a fire, but must waiting for back up to arrive before attempting any entrance at a structure fire.  

The result of that means response times will go up.  

When Superintendent McConnell canceled vacations for staff, he mandated any fire fighter taking sick time needed to produce a doctor's note to verify their time off upon returning to work.  

The ongoing impasse has tried Mayor Cantrell's patience.  

When union representatives demanded NOFD fill vacant roster spots, amounting to roughly $5-million a year, Cantrell balked. 

"We not be bullied," Cantrell fired back at fire fighters on Friday.  

"This is a public safety crisis created by the city and the Fire Department’s bureaucrats and politicians," Shanahan told the paper.  "The fire fighters have a solution, but those bureaucrats are not listening."

The union will go court next week to seek a temporary injunction to McConnell's decree canceling vacations.  

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