Sunday, October 31, 2010

Easton Fire Department Being Monitored for Sick Time Abuse

Posted by: Noel Jones

Ed Sieger of the Express-Times reports that the City of Easton has officially put the Easton Fire Department on notice that they are being monitored closely for potential "overtime misuse." As mentioned in my earlier post on this topic, overtime pay for the fire department will cost Easton taxpayers over $500K this year. After an investigation by the Express-Times, it has been revealed that there are numerous cases of firemen calling in sick on the day before, or day after, their scheduled vacations. In these scenarios, other firemen are called in to cover, and if they have already put in full-time hours that week, taxpayers are being charged the overtime rate for that coverage.

On one hand, I think firemen are real live heroes who should get paid as much or more than any other city official. After all, they do risk burning alive to save people they don't even know, and who may or may not even deserve it. I also appreciate the contributions to establishing humane work schedules, benefits and safety regulations that unions have made in our country's history. Without unions, there would be no such thing as a 40 hour work week, sick time, personal time, or vacation time. But I get upset when it starts to look like employees of a union may have grown accustomed to unintended perks paid by our tax dollars by taking advantage of the system. At a time when taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet, and when our mayor, with that in mind, is doing his utmost to not raise our taxes, it is not time to be taking advantage of taxpayers.

I am glad that our mayor, our city administrator, and our local media are on top of this.


Anonymous said...

I like the Mayor's comments in the paper today. He has a tough job trying to keep our taxes down but yet provide us all of the services we enjoy in the city. Certainly a professional fire department is one of them.

That said however, the firefighters in Easton, let me correct that, the fire union in Easton needs to understand that they are lucky to have a job and a job with good benefits and vacation and sick leave. They fought hard against paying for a portion of their heathcare. I still pay 250% more than they do and i don't get an extra paycheck for my birthday. 21 sck days and a bundle of holidays and sick days is excessive.

The city needs the cooperation of all of our public employees to control costs. Let's hope we get it.

Tachitup said...

The E-T didn't make a great case for massive abuse; but I'm sure it does occur to some extent. What the mayor has done is to shine the light on's hoping that it does get our heroes to think twice before calling in sick.
I like Terrance, but he's playing the Union Guy role.
I used to have sympathy for some union workers, but the person in the office next to my spouse (a NJ school district) is making $99,00 for working 10 months + sick days, etc. Maybe, we need to pay more attention to union contracts.
Thanks, Noël, for posting this.

noel jones said...

Tachitup--thanks for posting. Along the lines of what you are saying, I have heard that the teachers' union president, Kevin Deeley, is a teacher, who is paid to work full-time for the union rather than teach. I would like to know if this is true, and if so, how that works. Does he still count as a teacher to the district, and is he still collecting a teacher's salary and benefits while he works for the union? Or is he on leave from teaching while he works for the union? Who is paying for his benefits?

My fear with the unions lately is that if they take advantage to a degree that angers taxpaying voters, eventually the union busters will gain enough public sympathy to destroy them. And if we have no unions, what's to stop us from becoming like China, in that workers have no rights, and work inhumanely long hours for low pay? Corporations these days seem to be all about cutting costs, rather than incentivizing. It's not hard to imagine that without unions in place to protect workers, that corporations will exploit the existing desperation for jobs, and drive their workers into the ground to expand their profit margin. At the same time, corruption within unions has become almost intolerable (it's not truly "intolerable" until the People stop tolerating it).

What are readers thoughts on this dynamic? Do you think that would happen without the unions, or do you have faith in our citizenry that we would protest and use our collective political power to stop it from happening? I get nervous when I consider that possibility, because voter apathy and nihilistic attitudes seem to be prevalent these days.

I hope there is a good turnout for the the election on Tuesday, if for nothing else, as a sign that Americans are WAKING UP, making voting a priority and beginning to use our political power again.

Dennis R. Lieb said...


I think you should interview Deeley for the blog. I've seen him around town so he can't be too hard to find.

Also, I'd recommend the article about the EASD tax issue in the last issue of the Elucidator: well written and researched by Tara Zrinski; their new feature writer.

The EFD issue is one of those things that seems easy to pick a side over when viewed from the comfort of your living room. In reality it is one of those common phenomenons of real life when access to abundant personal benefits meet human nature's tendency towards temptation laziness and abuse of advantage.

I see it as a simple labor/management balancing act. Once the tell-tale signs of creeping abuse reveal themselves, management then subtly tries to reinstate the status-quo by bringing non-threatening pressure on the abusers before things get wildly out of hand. If this "push and pull" works properly it never needs to rise to the level of full-blown labor war.

I think the parties involved are grown-up enough to make that work.


noel jones said...

let's hope so!