PLATTSBURGH — If the Plattsburgh Fire Department switches to eight-hour shifts, as suggested by the mayor, it would be the only department in the state operating that way.
City Mayor Donald Kasprzak thinks the change from 24-hour shifts would save money, but the firefighters union says it would have the opposite effect.
The department comprises 36 firefighters, with four nine-member platoons that work 24-hour shifts with three days off in between.
Kasprzak thinks the city could save about $300,000 in the $5.4 million department by changing to eight-hour shifts — and he believes it would be safer for all.
“Who would want to go fight a major fire at 2 a.m. when they have been working for 20 hours and are dog-tired?” the mayor said.
“It’s just not safe.”
But Plattsburgh Permanent Firefighters Association President Terry Feazelle sees it differently.
He said 24-hour shifts are not an issue for trained professionals.
“It’s like anything else — you get used to it, and it doesn’t bother you.”
UP FOR DISCUSSION
Feazelle said the city has never officially asked to remove 24-hour shifts and that, if it did, the union would listen.
“It’s a nice sound byte, but we have seen nothing in writing,” he said.
He noted that the union has gone since 2008 without a new contract, as differences on many issues remain unresolved.
“If this was just about our schedule, we would have a contract.”
Feazelle thinks that if the city moved to eight- or even 10-hour shifts, it would cost more because of hold-over pay. Hold-over pay would come into effect if a new platoon came on duty and the previous crew was still out on a call that came in near the end of their eight-hour shift.
The department responds annually to about 3,200 ambulance calls and about 800 fire calls, many of which are actually for a fire truck to go assist the ambulance crews.