In the afternoon work session on 26 September Trey Yelverton, the city manager, presented an update on civil service. The first chart he put up was a pay scale depicting that the average fire fighter in Arlington makes $86,000 a year. All that is required is a high school diploma. One must consider that firefighters only work 8 days a month in earning this wage. But then Mr. Yelverton started putting up sick leave utilization charts and how, since August (start of budget talks) sick leave has increased requiring an increase in overtime expenditures. So please let me elaborate.
As you can plainly see from this chart unauthorized absences increased dramatically from the time budget discussions started concerning the reductions in fire department benefits. I might add that no other departments at the city had this increase in sick leave.
This staffing chart, illustrates that sick leave abuse drove the department staffing down to 76 firefighters per shift. 76 is the number that is required to staff all trucks and keep them in battery for the entire 24 hour period. In order to accommodate the abuse of sick leave by our firefighters we had to call in others and pay them overtime, depicted on the chart below.
The increase of FY17 overtime due to excessive sick leave, cost the taxpayers an additional $1 million dollars just to staff the fire department and would have cost the department $1.5 million if the department hadn't gone to minimum staffing. Chief Crowson has taken the overtime budget and lowered it from 36,000 hours annually down to 6,000 hours. I can only look at these numbers and come up with one conclusion. Certain union following firefighters, with high school diplomas making $86,000 a year, who swore an oath to serve and protect the citizens of Arlington, find it more convenient to call in sick than to uphold their oath to the citizens. In doing so they have cost those same citizens an additional million dollars in overtime. I believe that since this phenomenon is only indigenous to the fire department and no other part of city staff, that this action was contrived by their union leadership. I find this action by the fire union to be despicable, and that the actions of anyone participating in this organized labor action, to be reprehensible. These firefighters should be ashamed of themselves, but they have no contrition, therefore no moral compass. How you can put the safety of the citizens, below your personal agenda is beyond comprehension. How you can denigrate the uniform and ignore your sworn oath, speaks volumes to your lack of character. Shame on you!
To those good firefighters that have been caught up in this I apologize. But the actions of the Union President and his selected e-board have clearly gotten you into this situation. How they can do this without remorse astounds me. Good luck to those who chose to retire and those that leave for greener pastures. Your service was greatly appreciated.