Oregon Firefighters Request Double Overtime Pay Due To Ongoing Staffing Issues. Why Is The Government Not Recruiting New Employees?

In the Oregon State, Portland firefighters are requesting an increase in overtime pay as a result of two years of regular obligatory overtime to fill gaps brought on by ongoing personnel shortages.

The Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters’ union is asking for a hike in the overtime pay rate from time-and-a-half to double time. According to the Portland Firefighters’ Association, firefighters are currently subject to disciplinary action if they don’t do the necessary overtime.

Portland Fire & Rescue is significantly understaffed, according to a new study that was ordered by the department but carried out by the outside firm Citygate Associates. As a result, response times for emergency calls are being impacted.

Firefighter Isaac McLennan, president of the Portland Firefighters Association, stated that the number of firefighters hasn’t increased in 20 or more years. “The people have increased. Social upheaval and wildfires are now challenges, yet the number of calls we respond to has increased noticeably while the population has remained the same.”

He said that the pandemic worsened the department’s staffing shortage and that the union at the time had agreed to a method to try to fairly distribute the necessary overtime to keep the fire stations fully manned.

According to McLennan, the department now has 169 firemen on duty simultaneously throughout 31 stations in Portland, but given the current manpower levels, the department finds it difficult to keep that schedule.

He stated, “The city is providing overtime for people who volunteer.” “However, they’re choosing to reduce on-duty personnel if there aren’t enough people, and they’re also choosing to reprimand, to punish those who refuse to work, who have to go home to their families,” the author said.

Firefighters have been requested to work extra shifts without warning in around 1,400 cases since the epidemic began, according to McLennan, with the length of the extra shifts varying from four to 24 hours. The union requested a change in policy because they anticipated a very busy summer this year, but they have not heard back as of yet.

The number of firefighters in the city has decreased by around 30 since full manning levels were reached, and additional losses are anticipated soon owing to impending retirements. Additionally, the union is requesting that the city provide long-term financing for 16 extra full-time firefighter positions in addition to money for the opening of a new fire station in southeast Portland because of the area’s higher residential density.

Oregon Firefighters Request Double Overtime Pay Due To Ongoing Staffing Issues
Oregon Firefighters Request Double Overtime Pay Due To Ongoing Staffing Issues

McLennan stated, “We are recruiting people — we have individuals in training right now that will come out, but because we’re behind so far, even if they were to recruit and hire people, we’d still be in a hole for maybe one to two more years.”

PF&R has typically depended on its own training academy to bring on new workers, but the department was compelled to take the unprecedented step of opening up lateral jobs in January to recruit firemen with experience in other departments in an effort to quickly address the manpower gaps.

The hiring freezes from 2011 through 2014 and then again in 2019 left the department with manpower below 2010 levels, according to Lt. Elizabeth Thompson of PF&R at the time. She stated that there were roughly 650 firefighters in the department, down from 692 in 2010.

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