May 23, 2013
By Neal Tepel
New York, NY – On Wednesday, May 22nd a delegation of 911 emergency call center workers held an important press conference at City Hall. The workers are members of NYC Clerical- Administrative Employees Local 1549 of District Council 37. The press conference was conducted by New York City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone Jr. Councilman Vallone said there is now a crisis at the 911 call centers that must be addressed by the Mayor.
Vallone, called on the city to immediately hire 400 new 911 operators and dispatchers, implement alternative work schedules for existing 911 staff, and improve workplace safety. "This is getting to the point where our 911 operators are going to have to call 911. The City is potentially putting New Yorkers' lives at risk by not having enough operators," stated Council Member Vallone.
DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said: "DC 37 calls on the city to act now and remedy the situation at the 911 call center by hiring adequate staff, providing alternative work schedules for existing staff and addressing health and safety concerns. Our members at 911 are on the front line during our city's crises – from Sept. 11, 2001 to Hurricane Sandy – answering emergency calls for help. Now they are calling for help to do their vital jobs better, and the city should listen and respond."
DC 37 and Local 1549 President Eddie Rodriguez said: "The men and women who work at 911 are true everyday heroes. Local 1549 will not tolerate our members being taken for granted or mistreated. The Local will not rest until members are treated fairly and full civilianization of the police department has been realized" In recent years, call volumes in the New York Police Department's Communications Section have increased dramatically while staffing levels have steadily declined, leading to increased fatigue, stress, and sick leave usage among 911 operators and dispatchers. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of 911 calls increased by 20%. Yet over the same period, Communications Section staffing declined 11%, from 1,300 to just 1,160. This has led management to assign excessive overtime – causing stress, exhaustion and poor health among the staff, and stretching 911 emergency response capabilities to the limit, continued President Rodriguez.
Costs to taxpayers from increased overtime in the Communications Section have increased by 88%, from approximately $2 million in 2008 to over $4 million in 2012. Hiring, alternative work schedules and workplace safety improvements are needed to alleviate this situation.