YONKERS, NY – May 31, 2012 — Mayor Mike Spano today announced a plan to avoid layoffs of Fire Department personnel in the new budget, while reducing overtime costs by nearly $6 million a year. Spano said the proposal will rely on controlling sick leave abuse in the Fire Department, which has grown to excessive proportions and is costing the taxpayers millions of dollars a year in overtime costs.
Mayor Spano said in some weeks as much as 25% of the fire department’s personnel call in sick, and that routinely an average more than 20% of department personnel are calling in sick during any given week.
“As we began auditing sick leave in the Fire Department we were amazed at what we found,” said Mayor Spano. “A business that had this many employees routinely calling in sick would soon go bankrupt. Well, the taxpayers can’t afford it either.”
“I’ve always said Yonkers has the best fire department in the country, but we have to be realistic to what our taxpayers can afford, and balance it with adequate public safety. I believe this proposal addresses that.”
Mayor Spano is proposing that the City assign 54 firefighters to a shift, as is current practice to staff the City’s 18 fire companies. Replacements will be called in if less than 48 fire personnel show up for work. Currently the City calls in replacements, at time and a half, to maintain a minimum of 54.
Mayor Spano added he will ask the City’s new Inspector General to update its 2010 analysis of sick time usage in the Fire Department, as a first step in controlling abuse.
“By controlling unjustified sick leave, we can minimize the need to bring in replacements at time and a half,” said Mayor Spano. “The savings should be nearly $6 million yearly.”
“This plan protects public safety, is fair to the taxpayer, and is fair to firefighters,” added Mayor Spano. “Either we get costs under control in this budget, or the City faces an unsustainable financial future.”
What is referred to by some firefighters as the ‘Holy Grail’ noted Mayor Spano, “The Fire Department’s contract is one of the most generous in the nation in salary, requires among the lowest number of working hours of any department, and even grants a week’s extra salary for reporting to work ten minutes early. But it’s also leading to an unjustified number of fire personnel calling in sick each shift due to the unlimited sick leave provision. That’s unfair, unjustified, and has to stop.”
Mayor Spano said among the measures being considered are closer monitoring of sick leave use, preventing abusers from working “mutual” shifts or holding second jobs, and enforcing regulations that prevent those on sick leave from leaving their home.
SOURCE: Press Release…Christina Gilmartin, Communications Director, Office of the Mayor