Chief: NOFD prepared if firefighters stage a "sick out"

Kenny Kuhn
February 13, 2020 - 9:04 am
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New Orleans Fire Chief Tim McConnell says they are facing a staffing shortage and are prepared if a union-directed boycott escalates.

“If the union officials and leaders choose to escalate this through a sick-out, we will be prepared,” said Chief McConnell. “However I have trust that the firefighters of the city are dedicated and they will not do that.”

New Orleans Fire Fighters Association President Aaron Mischler says they have no such plans, "We've made it clear from the very beginning this isn't a job action, this is simple guys exercising their right not to volunteer to work any extra shifts until our issues are addressed by the city administration." Mischler adds, "We are not planning a sick-out, we are coming to work as we have always done."

Chief McConnell says that canceling vacations is just temporary, “All of the actions I have taken is to ensure public safety. So the policy about canceling vacations is only a temporary directive, and I will be revisiting that immediately after Mardi Gras. It is to ensure we have enough people on fire trucks because we don’t have what we rely on which is voluntary overtime.”

He says the temporary directive also addresses the policy of mandatory overtime but he anticipates they will not have to enact that measure so long as firefighters continue to show up for their regular shifts.

Chief McConnell also says the union’s request to have overtime paid after a firefighter works more than 96 hours in a 14-day period, was first made on Monday and says that request is not easily fixed in such a short time. “It sounds simple, it amounts to $4.7 million after we have done the analysis.” He continues, “Give the city’s budget constraints that are not something that gets solved when you make an immediate request.”

He also says the city’s Civil Service is working to hire more firefighters as quickly as possible, and they hope to get a recruiting class started on March 15. “In addition to that, we are looking at over ways to expedite getting firefighters hired in,” said Chief McConnell. “That will take some work with Civil Service to do that but we are looking at methods to expedite the process to get firefighters, trained firefighters, in the door.”

He adds that he and his department are working with the union to resolve the issue and that he will begin negotiation meetings immediately after Mardi Gras.

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