Charleston (WV) to Cut Firefighter Staffing, Sick Leave

Charleston (WV) firefighters’ staffing levels, overtime, and sick leave would be cut under a new plan the city council passed on Monday, according to a report from WCHS Radio 58 (http://bit.ly/rAayLC).

Under the recently-passed bill, 10 vacant positions in the fire department will be cut, and another three positions held by firefighters on long-term or military leave will be eliminated. Whenever two more firefighters retire, those positions will also be eliminated. In total, the plan cuts 15 positions from the department, bringing the total number of workers from 186 to 171. No workers will be laid off, a city official told WCHS.

The bill also overhauls the department’s sick leave and personal leave. Instead of receiving sick leave, firefighters would be granted personal contingency leave, which they could use for any reason or convert the leave into sick leave at the end of the year. Up to 144 hours of sick leave can be accrued to be converted into health premiums upon retirement.

Firefighters picketed against the plan on Monday and showed up at the council session to voice their opposition to the cuts.

Fire officials say the plan would seriously affect staffing, creating situations where only two men manned fire engines on a call some days. This could put firefighters at risk in a resuce situation, as they would not be able to comply with the department’s two-in/two-out policy.

The cuts come after a consultant’s report claimed the fire department was inefficient compared to a similar-sized city.

For more about the difficulties faced by firefighters on the front lines when houses are closed and staffing is cut, read the series, “Inside a Budget Fight.”

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