Minn. fire chief: Weekend sick use is ‘disturbing, costly’

By FireRescue1 Staff

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A fire chief condemned firefighters’ use of weekend sick days, calling it a “disturbing and costly pattern.”

St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler voiced his dissatisfaction for the practice in an email sent to department members over the weekend. Chief Butler wrote that 36 percent of department’s sick leave was being used on weekends, reported KAAL.

“I know that sick leave use balloons on the weekend and in order to get ‘extra time off,’” Chief Butler wrote. “It clearly hurts staffing, it violates the expectations of our citizens, and it’s just plain wrong.”

The email was discussed Tuesday night at the local firefighters’ union meeting.

“A lot of our members were offended, being accused, being blamed for the budget crisis, when we know it was a mismanagement of the department,” firefighter Mike Smith said at the meeting.

Smith said the data Chief Butler made his claims off of included firefighters who were out on long-term sick leave. In the last year, there have been 1,182 instances of sick leave, which averaged to 169 sick calls a day. The number spiked to 228 on Saturday’s and to 201 on Sunday’s.

Chief Butler told KAAL that his email did not mean to cast blame on firefighters, but to voice budget concerns to the union and department.

“It is time for the city to start holding this chief accountable for his lack of leadership and mismanagement of this budget,” Smith wrote in a letter to city hall.

The 2017 budget for the fire department has not been finalized, but fire officials are requesting an additional $2 million in its $65 million budget.

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