NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) -The New Orleans Fire Fighters Association, the union representing New Orleans firemen, claims that NOFD Chief Tim McConnell has cancelled all fire fighters’ vacations until further notice.
In a news release sent Tuesday, union spokesman Aaron Mischler says “in response to fire fighters’ 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 fire fighters and accused them of exploiting the city, Chief McConnell, effective immediately, cancelled all fire fighters’ vacations until further notice.”
By cancelling leaves and enacting a mandatory overtime policy, it ensures more firefighters are available to respond to the community’s request for service. The temporary directive excludes employees who have made financial vacation commitments and only requires firefighters to work their regular schedule, which averages 56 hours/week," the City of New Orleans said.
No mandatory overtime has been ordered at this time.
Firefighters said they will no longer voluntarily work overtime hours because of a host of issues they want to be settled. New Orleans firefighters said they’ve decided to send a message to City Hall that “enough is enough.”
They say there are several labor issues that haven’t been addressed in years.
The biggest issue they say right now is that the call volume has increased over the last decade while the department's manpower dramatically decreased.
The union president told FOX 8 in 2010 there were about 800 members and today there are about 500. He says it’s the lowest in the agency’s 128-year history. To cope, he says firefighters are working many overtime hours.
They’re working between 96 and 120 hours a week to make up for the shortfall.
“To choose this time to do it at the heart of Mardi Gras coming up on Friday, then the hard rock collapse, nothing like it before,” Chief Tim McConnell said Monday. “And you won’t look around and find it anywhere else in America and to capitalize on this just speaks to lack of leadership on their part.”
As long as firefighters report for work on their regularly scheduled shift, there should be no need to enact the mandatory overtime policy., the city said. The cancellation of vacation is a “temporary directive.”
It will be rescinded as staffing increases or if firefighters agree to work voluntary overtime shifts, according to City Hall.