Local 42 Prez Explains KCFD 'On-Call' Overtime Crisis & Staffing Shortages

This morning we offer our respect to 1st responders and merely share this info so that locals will have a better idea of what's happening behind these scenes of KCFD.

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From Local 42 President

"Brothers and Sisters,

This communication is to explain in better detail the agreement that was reached to try an "On-Call" system for mandatory overtime hiring. I will also give some reasoning on the thought process behind making this change and some additional items we were able to secure along with this program. I will preface this by saying that obviously this is not the solution that we wanted but I do think that moving forward this will be a better system than the haphazard method that the Fire Department is currently using to try and staff our department properly. We all are aware of our staffing shortages and that is through no fault of anybody receiving this email. Fire Administration and the bureaucracy at City Hall has failed to complete a contract for a company to test new hires in a timely fashion. That is why KCFD has roughly 140 vacancies and those vacancies are the main driver of our mandatory overtime problem. While we can be, and rightly are, extremely frustrated and upset that we are in this situation, we also know that we need to look at solutions that will alleviate the uncertainty and negative impacts of being randomly forced to remain on duty because we can't get anybody to staff an ambulance or a fire truck. We have come dangerously close to shutting down companies. Simply put, doing what we have been doing is not an option anymore. What we were able to come up with was a three-prong approach that should positively impact the level of mandatory overtime required over the next year. The first piece is the "On Call" system for mandatory overtime hiring. The second is a plan to increase staffing as quickly and efficiently as possible; the third piece incentivizes members to come to work on their duty days through a sick leave incentive program.

The first piece is the "On Call" system. I strongly believe that a more predictable system was necessary so that our members could plan and schedule when they may be forced to work overtime by their employer. I have heard numerous people that have been forced to stay at the station after their shift ends and many eventually get forced to stay for a full shift. This is unacceptable for someone who has plans with their family that day, or tickets to the ballgame, or a project at the house that really needs to get done that weekend. We built this system based off of mandatory overtime data collected over the last year plus. We used that data, along with the current number of employees available to work field mandatory overtime, to build out a system that should ensure that the only time you will be forced to work mandatory overtime is during the two-week period that you have bid and had time to plan for. Furthermore, with a minimum of 36 members on call every pay period the most any member should be mandated in their pay period is 2 shifts, with the majority of members being mandated for 1 or zero shifts. Again, this is based off of the worst mandatory pay periods we saw over the last year when staffing wasn't much better and the number of members off on quarantine were at some of the highest levels we experienced. Please reference the attached document that outlines some of the details of the system. Prong 1, eliminate the constant uncertainty about whether you will get relieved to go home on any given day.

The second piece involves increasing staffing ASAP. I have received a number of calls and texts from members and the question of the progress of the new testing process has come up. The contract for that process is finally completed and we have begun meetings with National Testing Network to get the process agreed to and in place so that we can begin testing potential candidates. I am pushing to shorten that process as much as practical while still doing our best to advertise and sell KCFD as a place young men and women should consider coming to work so that we have a robust, diverse and qualified pool of recruits. I have verbal agreement from the City Manager and Fire Admin that we can advertise and recruit outside of Kansas City so long as the new hire moves into the City within 9 months of starting their career with KCFD. We are going to need to hire hundreds of new fire fighters over the next few years and it is my belief that in order to do that we need to expand our reach. That process will still take some time and once an academy class is started it still takes months to get those recruits trained up, certified and out on the streets.

Because of the emergency staffing situation we find ourselves in, Local 42 was also able to negotiate an emergency hiring agreement with the City Manager. Beginning next week, Local 42 and Fire Admin will begin a process of recruiting candidates to join KCFD. This process will be outside and prior to the NTN testing process and list being completed. We have been given authority to begin a fire fighter selection process and offer employment to individuals who already possess Missouri EMT or equivalent, Firefighter 1 and 2 certifications and who successfully pass a FD interview. If we are successful in attracting a decent number of applicants who already possess these certifications, we will be able to bring them in and put them through a much shorter academy process and get these new fire fighter EMTs and/or Medics out on the street within the next few months. This will help relieve some of the pressure caused by our inadequate staffing. This is fairly unprecedented and, if done correctly, could provide marked relief to the men and women out in the field. This option will remain available up until a new hiring list is completed and certified. Prong 2, get more fire fighters hired ASAP.

Lastly, Local 42 was able to negotiate a Sick Leave Incentive Policy. This incentive will provide $1000.00 for any member who does not use sick leave between July 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022. While our abysmal staffing is the main driver of mandatory overtime, the data clearly shows a dramatic increase of sick leave usage on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. If we can reduce sick leave usage on weekends to the average sick leave usage seen during the week, mandatory is actually fairly rare. There have been numerous audits over the years that prove that this type of program is effective in reducing sick leave usage and Local 42 fought hard to raise the dollar amount up to a level that I hope will have a positive impact. With the chance of COVID picking back up, we also made certain that anybody who is diagnosed positive with COVID-19 will not be penalized in this program. Upon a positive test, any SL that was used is converted to Modified Duty. Prong 3, incentivize people to come to work and reward those that do.

I know there will be a lot more questions going forward, so I will be out visiting your stations over the coming weeks. If something comes up before then, please email me and I will get back to you as soon as I am able.

In solidarity,

Daniel Heizman


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