COMMISSIONER CASSANO ANNOUNCES STAFFING
ON 49 ENGINE COMPANIES RESTORED
FOLLOWING DROP IN FIREFIGHTER ABSENTEE RATE
Fire Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano announced that the Fire Department – which a month ago reduced staffing levels on 49 engine companies from five firefighters to four - today restored the “fifth” firefighter on those companies due to a dramatic reduction in absenteeism among firefighters during the month of December.
Both last month’s staffing reduction - and today’s restoration - are in accordance with the Uniformed Firefighters Association (UFA) labor contract with the city.
(Under the UFA contract, of the city’s 194 engine companies, 134 are staffed with four firefighters and 49 are staffed with five - if medical leave rates stay below 7.5%. Another 11 companies are always staffed with five firefighters, regardless of the medical leave numbers.)
After the city reduced staffing on December 2, the absenteeism rate for firefighters fell more than 16 percent, with an extra 100 firefighters per day on average reporting for work than during the prior 11 months. The annualized medical leave rate – which reached 7.53% on Dec. 1 – has fallen to 7.48% as of January 1.
Higher medical leave rates result in increased overtime expenses for the city. The “fifth” firefighter on 49 engines costs approximately $20 million annually.
“I’m pleased that medical leave rates have declined and we’re able to restore engine staffing levels,” said Fire Commissioner Cassano. “Controlling overtime costs is crucial – especially during these tough fiscal times – and the Department will continue to take every measure necessary to ensure we are spending taxpayer dollars wisely and responsibly.”
This is the third time in the past seven years that the city has decreased engine company staffing due to high firefighter absentee rates. In each case, it was restored once the medical leave rates declined.
At the beginning of each month the Fire Department reviews medical leave rates and, if the rate exceeds 7.5%,
the staffing reduction can be made as per the UFA contract provision. The staffing reduction remains in place until the end of the month, when the medical leave rate is again reviewed to determine whether the staffing reduction continues or is modified. While the Fire Commissioner can reduce staffing once the 7.5% rate is exceeded, the contract calls for a mandatory staffing reduction if the rate reaches 7.6%.
Press Contact: Francis X. Gribbon & Steve Ritea, (FDNY) (718) 999-2056