Corrigan Argues for 56-Hour Work Week; Interim Chief Says He’s ‘Not a Fan’

Town Manager Gayle Corrigan presents her report to the Town Council April 9, 2018.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

Interim Fire Chief Kevin Robinson said during the Town Council meeting – after being asked by a resident during public comment – that he was “not a fan” of the 24-hour shifts required under Town Manager Gayle Corrigan’s proposed restructuring plan.

Corrigan presented her plan of action to reduce fire department overtime expenses to the Town Council Monday night, arguing that changing the shift structure from 4 platoons to 3 could allow the department to go from 36 to 30 employees while building in staff to cover for illness or injury.

That 56-hour work week plan is even now before Superior Court Judge Susan McGuirl. The town sued the firefighters in December asking that the court make a declaration that the town has the right to change the structure of the department unilaterally (i.e. without negotiating the change with the firefighters union).

Corrigan wants the council to approve the 56-hour work week but put it on hold until after McGuirl issues a ruling. A hearing is set on the town’s suit Monday, April 23.

Councilman Mark Schwager asked what to expect at that hearing.

Town Solicitor David D’Agostino said the town has asked Judge McGuirl to make a “judgment on the pleadings” – in other words, make a decision using just what is in front of her, with no additional discovery and no addition testimony. The judge could rule on April 23, he said, or she could ask for additional evidence.

“I don’t know if the court is going to be prepared to rule at that time,” D’Agostino said.

Under Corrigan’s proposed three-platoon system, firefighters would work 24 hours on, 48 hours off. The plan calls for 30 firefighters – 8 plus 2 floaters per shift – down from the current 36 firefighters. She recommends laying off the extra 6 firefighters based on seniority. In a four-platoon system, firefighters typically work 10 hours on, 14 hours off, 10 hours on, 24 hours off, 14 hours on, 96 hours off.

She argued that with seven firefighters on “injured on duty” status, it’s like the fire department is already working with only three platoons and she called the proposed reorganization even more of a safety issue than a fiscal one.

After admitting he was not a fan of 24-hour shifts, Chief Robinson said the important thing was to cut down on the number of hours firefighters were working, regardless of the shift structure. In his budget for fiscal year 2019, Robinson has a $1.2 million line item for overtime. Three quarters of a year into fiscal year 2018, $573,000 has been spent on EGFD overtime. Finance Director Linda Dykeman projects the final number to be just under $800,000. Meanwhile, the number of firefighters has remained constant at 36 since 2006, while calls have gone up nearly a third.

Corrigan also outlined possible changes in fire service delivery in the event Judge McGuirl rules against the town, including allowing the chief reduce the number of firefighters on duty overnight, making the department a volunteer service or privatizing the emergency medical rescue service.

Corrigan said she will present a candidate to fill the deputy chief position on an interim basis at the Town Council meeting May 14. No vote on the plan was taken Monday night.

For more information about Corrigan’s presentation, see our earlier story. Watch the entire meeting here.




One Reply to “Corrigan Argues for 56-Hour Work Week; Interim Chief Says He’s ‘Not a Fan’”

  1. Letter to the Editor
    I’ll GET YOU MY PRETTY…AND YOUR 6 LATERAL TRANSFERS TOO

    It sure feels like Ms. Corrigan is trying to get rid of the 6 lateral transfers hired by the fire department in 2016, one way or another.

    Ms. Corrigan is now using a 3 platoon 56-hour work week system as a way to get rid of the 6 firefighters.

    Let’s look at the history of her actions:

    It just so happens that she is trying to remove the same 6 firefighters that she complained about while testifying in the James Perry case.

    Ms. Corrigan said she felt a lateral hiring process was “discriminatory” because “generally the number of firefighters that are currently employed are predominately white males” and that the CBA, charter language, the active hiring list were all “thrown away” in the lateral hiring process used. Ms. Corrigan testified that she “took it very seriously and spent a lot of time and energy trying to understand what had happened, how the laterals had come in, how the whole CBA had been — it was almost like a tip of the iceberg is this firing” and why she thought “relying on solely lateral hires is a bad idea” and “not a best practice in employment”. When questioned further and asked about being discriminatory and if that bothered her, Ms. Corrigan replied “It’s a fact, it’s a discriminatory practice. As you know, with employment law, there’s a lot, EEOC, the Town has an affirmative action program, all of these things when you are hiring laterals, it’s a fact that you are not — you are reducing the subset. It’s a fact. It doesn’t bother me. It’s a fact you are reducing the people that can apply.” Perhaps the tip of the iceberg stopped with Jim Perry because Justice McGuirl ruled, “this Court finds without question based on the credible evidence before it that Corrigan did not engage in “careful and factual consideration,” as required by § 45-1 of the CBA before terminating FF Perry for “just cause.” And, “There was no valid basis to terminate FF Perry.”

    Gall-lee said Gomer Pyke, I’m sure glad Ms. Corrigan didn’t reduce the subset and followed employment law, the EEOC and the Town’s affirmative action program when hiring Ms. Dykeman and Ms. Antunes.

    Also noted in the decision of that case is where the judge wrote, “Corrigan stated that her analysis revealed a structural deficit and, in her professional opinion, the lateral transfer procedures were a major contributing factor”. The only other familiar statement from Ms. Corrigan that appears to be missing was about that being “unsustainable” as well.

    OK That didn’t work, let’s try this…

    Ms. Corrigan now comes along with a plan to have the firefighters work more hours per week on average (56 rather than 42), while saying it is being done “due to the recognized fiscal and, more importantly, health, safety and wellness concerns from such extensive overtime hours”. So I guess if a firefighter has a bad night and works the 24 hour shift continuously and then has to work overtime, that is now somehow safer than a firefighter who works a 10 or 14 hour shift and has to work overtime.

    Ms. Corrigan recognizes the changes as structural changes that will take legal opinions and potentially additional complaints for summary judgement, i.e. a softer way of saying additional lawsuits. Apparently, we haven’t spent enough yet on legal fees.

    Ms. Corrigan said she will supply the council with her progress reports at the meeting on June 11. So much for the town manager search, maybe Santa will bring us a new one.

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