Union: Boost pay to fix 911 center staffing shortage
York County 911 will post job vacancies for emergency dispatchers and call-takers starting Thursday, but union officials say recruitment and retention won't improve until the county boosts wages.
The question of job postings came up this past week after The York Dispatch reported the 911 center is operating with only 39 full-time dispatchers and call-takers — even though it has 66 budgeted full-time positions — and that the vacant positions were not posted on the county's online job board.
Seven of eight part-time positions are filled, officials said.
"We’ve advocated for years for them to increase the wages there, because we believe that that’s really a large part of the problem," said Steve Mullen, president of the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Mullen said the union negotiated significant pay increases in its last contract but that it didn't go far enough.
The starting pay for a new dispatcher is $14.54 per hour.
He said the 911 center is still dealing with the same issues that have plagued the agency for years, even after the county paid $750,000 to an outside management consultant to diagnose and fix the problems.
York County Commissioner Ron Smith, who campaigned on the issue of the 911 center, also is in favor of a wage increase and said York County needs to compete with surrounding areas in order to attract people who want to make a career at the 911 center.
The job postings haven't been listed online yet because the county is tweaking the language "to try to be more descriptive in the entire earning potential, not just the base rate as it is much more than that," county spokesperson Mark Walters said in an email.
After advertising the job openings, the county will hold information sessions for applicants in November, then conduct interviews and background checks in December and January to prepare for the next new-hire training class, Walters said.
To cope with the staff shortage in the meantime, 911 Director Matthew Hobson decided to temporarily limit the nonemergency services dispatchers have typically provided to police, fire and EMS agencies, including looking up response times for reports, calling taxis and road crews and alerting public utilities about nonemergency situations.
The change goes into effect Thursday.