In what may be record time, a fire chief and union solved a major problem brought up by a consultant’s report and cited in this newspaper editorial.
On July 3 Emergency Services Consulting International issued a report to the Minneapolis City Council saying that firefighters had been averaging a little less than eleven 24-hour shifts of sick leave each year or 261 hours, while civilian employees of the department averaged 292 hours. For a fire chief that’s a problem, especially when the local paper made note of it in an editorial looking at what ails the department (Star-Tribune Editorial: Sounding an alarm on city firefighting).
We are happy to report that just a couple of weeks later Chief John Fruetel has already cut this apparent sick leave “abuse” by two-thirds. That’s a pretty remarkable job by a fire chief. You would think that Chief Fruetel would be up for fire chief of the year this week at FRI.
How did he do it? It turns out that the chief did what the consulting firm failed to do, he divided the three year totals by three and came up with the correct annual average sick leave usage. The Minneapolis Firefighters Union, which has been very vocal about the department’s staffing cuts, also did the math.
(Emergency Services Consulting International senior vice president Kent) Greene said that shortly after a Star Tribune editorial published that statistic on July 17, he got a call from Fire Chief John Fruetel wondering where Greene got his numbers. Greene said his office reviewed the statistics and discovered the error.
The 261 sick leave hours for firefighters and 292 for all personnel represented three-year totals, Greene said, and the study’s authors had neglected to divide the data by three. Firefighters actually averaged 87 hours of sick leave per year. Since most firefighters work a 24-hour shift, that represents about 3.6 sick days per year.
In a letter last week to Greene that included a spreadsheet detailing the error, Mark Lakosky, the union president, wrote, “For a department that has suffered low morale because of unfriendly political bosses, the last thing we need is malicious lies about how we performed our jobs.”
Joe Mattison, secretary for the union, also told reporter Furst the report’s findings that sick leave use spikes on Saturdays is also a bit misleading, though it’s what at least one council member is now focusing on.
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Also on STATter911 …
- Washington Post supports DC Fire & EMS Department shift change. Editorial board calls it ‘A shift for the better’. – December 26, 2011
- Fireground audio: Mayday with firefighters trapped & injured at Minneapolis church fire. Details on the escape through the fire. – May 29, 2012
- Firefighter/dispatcher falls asleep during 911 call. TV station has audio from Montgomery County, Maryland. – May 22, 2012
- IAFF Local 36 rebuttal to Washington Post: ‘A shift toward sleep deprived firefighters.’ – December 30, 2011
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