York County's 911 operators say work conditions at the county's 911 center are putting the community at risk, with weary operators working as many as 80 hours a week and 12 days in a row with no days off.
Several operators took their concerns to county commissioners during a meeting Wednesday, for which they were represented by Tara Wilson of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She said the union represents 79 workers in the county's 911 center.
Wilson said the union met with county commissioners in July and asked them to remedy the situation, but no action resulted. The group in September sent a letter to commissioners, she said. but nobody responded.
On Wednesday, Wilson asked commissioners to hire more operators soon, because the overworked crew presents a potential risk to those who call 911.
But Commissioner Chris Reilly said the group is just publicly complaining to bolster its contract negotiations, which are under way because the current contract expires Dec. 31.
"They came here to stage a little show," he said. "They had an audience and they came to do some public posturing. That's all part of the union management game...."
He said public safety is not at risk and caller safety has never been in jeopardy because of overworked dispatchers. He issued the union workers a challenge to "roll the tape, show me one instance where that has occurred."
Commissioners are working to fill about six vacancies, he said, but it takes time because the jobs don't pay very well and they're stressful.
He said the union workers, who generally earn between $11.50 and $12.50 an hour, "have asked for more money, less hours, and more workers, which, wouldn't we all like to work under those conditions?"
Union contract: County spokesman Carl Lindquist said the county has been hiring operators and working toward a goal number of 85 staff members to take calls. There were only 65 operators in 2012, but there are now 71, he said.
The number of those who quit or were fired was reduced from 29 in 2012 to 19 in 2013, he said.
He said the public has never been at risk because of the vacancies, and there have never been "empty seats" at the call center.
The union members are working under conditions that they themselves approved in a contract agreement that they ratified, Lindquist said.
Under that contract, the county can pre-schedule 12 hours per week of overtime, for which the operators are paid at an overtime rate. They could also be required to stay late until someone can relieve them if a coworker has called off from work.
Any other overtime is voluntary, Lindquist said.
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