'A gun to their heads': County 911 dispatchers forced to work five 12-hour shifts — plus overtime

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Dispatchers at the York County 911 Center will be required to work mandated overtime shifts in addition to the 20 hours of regularly scheduled overtime already structured into their schedules, a union representative said Monday.

The dispatchers work 60 hours per week in 12-hour shifts, and mandated overtime would add to that work load. 

"At this point, the employees have a gun to their heads," said Steve Mullen, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

If the dispatchers decline to work mandated overtime shifts, they'll be disciplined and could lose their jobs, he said.

The requirement for dispatchers to work overtime is based on the operational needs of the 911 center, county spokesman Mark Walters said in a statement Tuesday.

An employee talks with a co-worker at the York County 911 Center Monday, July 31, 2017. County spokesman Mark Walters and lead training supervisor Roxie Tate talked with the media Monday, Feb. 26 regarding recent problems with the center's paging system. Bill Kalina photo

"Up to this point, there has not been anyone mandated to work additional hours beyond their 12-hour per day schedule," he stated.

This is the second time management has violated the union contract in recent weeks, Mullen said.

The 911 center's management replaced eight-hour shifts with 12-hour shifts in late March, over the objections of the union, in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

By reducing the number of shift changes from three per day to two per day, the 911 center's management aims to reduce contact among employees and lessen the risk of spreading the virus, Walters said last week.

As of Wednesday, Mullen said he was not aware of anyone at the 911 center being diagnosed with the virus.

More:York County 911 dispatchers required to work 12-hour shifts over union's objection

According to the union contract, dispatchers are required to work 40 hours per week in eight-hour shifts scheduled by management, Mullen has said, in addition to 12 hours of flexible weekly overtime that employees can schedule on their own.

The union later agreed to increase the overtime to 20 hours per week on a temporary basis, until the managers could hire more dispatchers. Those 20 hours were still flexible, meaning dispatchers could choose when to work the extra time, Mullen said.

But the new 12-hour shifts are not flexible, and all 60 hours are scheduled by management.

When the management introduced the 12-hour schedule last month, Mullen said, they told the dispatchers that the administrative staff would help cover open shifts to prevent dispatchers from being mandated to work more overtime.

Walters said the administrative staff at the 911 center has stepped up to help with coverage on the floor whenever they are asked, and that any concerns raised by staff members will be addressed "through the appropriate channels."

The local AFSCME chapter is considering filing an unfair labor practice charge with the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, Mullen said.

Overreliance on overtime hours to cope with inadequate staffing has been an issue at the 911 center for years.

The county spent nearly $1 million on outside consultants over the past few years to diagnose the problem, including a $750,000 contract with New Jersey-based IXP Corp., before director Matthew Hobson took over in February.

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