NEWPORT NEWS, Va (WAVY) — Newport News’s Firefighter Association is thanking city leadership for reversing a policy that it felt could cause firefighters to leave.
“I’m very happy,” said Donnie Lewis, the union president. “Our city and our department is now taking care of our people. I think it will help.”
In late spring, Interim Fire Chief Scott Liebold began enforcing a policy that prevents officers in the department (lieutenants and captains) from covering non-supervisor shifts for overtime. Officers are paid at a higher wage, thus their overtime costs taxpayers more, according to Liebold.
However, in June members of the firefighters union flooded the chambers of a city council meeting to send the message that the savings in overtime are causing firefighters to work more overtime themselves. Sometimes the firefighters would be forced to work 72 hours straight during non-emergency times.
They feared firefighters would start looking for other jobs in the region if something is not done soon.
“Two weeks ago, the city manager, the interim fire chief and our union leadership met,” Lewis said. “It was a great meeting, they listened to our concerns and we now can have officers ride in the officers seat on overtime again.”
Lewis said more changes our now coming in order to help with the understaffing.
“We were a little bit non-competitive,” Lewis said. “Pay was a little bit lower. [The city manager] was committed to upping the pay to match the surrounding departments and we are now competitive and hopefully people will see that.”
Lewis said he plans to thank city council and the city manager personally next meeting.