Firefighters voice concern over mandatory overtime policy

By FireRescue1 Staff

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A firefighters' union expressed their concern over a new policy that makes overtime mandatory.

WTKR reported that the Newport News Firefighters' Association attended a city council meeting and said the mandatory overtime policy is exhausting its members.

“Our firefighters are the best in the world, I think. They do a great job … but there’s a limit,” union president Donnie Lewis said. “Our firefighters are medics and they’re riding on the medic trucks a lot. They’re responsible for your life. If I’ve been up for three days straight, how good am I?”

Lewis asked city officials at the meeting “for a simple policy change that will get firefighters home to their families.”

The policy change took place when Scott Liebold took over as interim chief in March, according to Lewis.

Chief Liebold said he implemented the policy to fix the problem of fire department officers working overtime to cover non-supervisor roles, which meant the department was spending more.

“Yes, it’s exhausting. Yes, it’s wearing, [but] I have a responsibility to provide a service to the city,” he said. “For us to do that, we have to staff our trucks. If we have vacancies and we have to staff our trucks, we have to make folks work.”

Chief Liebold added that the department is short 40 staff members, and it will take time to find a solution that works for everyone.

“It’s going to take 18 months to 24 months to really fix,” he said.

Lewis said that some of the firefighters are looking for other jobs due to the heavy workload.

“He’s fixing the budget on our back,” Lewis said. “When you tell fathers on Father’s Day you can’t go home because we’ve got to work you? That’s tough.”

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