The Village of Oak Lawn recently released employee compensation figures for 2015, which show that the Village pays firefighters almost $3 million in overtime due to contentious management decisions.
On January 22nd, 2016, Mayor Sandra Bury announced the release of the employee compensation figures for the previous year. In doing so, she highlighted the earnings of herself and a Fire Department Lieutenant.
The original document did not differentiate between base salary and payments such as overtime, back pay, etc. This led many residents to wonder how a firefighter could make $242,000. The Leaf made a Freedom of Information Act request for the detailed figures. The Village quickly released another document, showing that base salaries are much more modest, less than half the cited figure.
The earnings figures are actually a result of contentious management decisions made by the Bury administration and Village Manager Larry Deetjen. In their ongoing struggle to “bust” the firefighters’ union, the Village has slashed manpower below the stipulated minimum manning figures. By having too few firefighters on the payroll, the Village forces the firefighters presently on staff to work overtime.
The Village paid Fire Department personnel $2.8 million dollars in overtime in 2015. That does not count the additional pension payments necessary to match the additional pay. Using a base salary + benefits figure of $94,000 for a new firefighter/paramedic, the Village could afford to hire an additional 29 firefighter/paramedics, and still have money left over. This would eliminate the need for the extreme amount of overtime, which presents its own dangers in readiness and fatigue. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has studied those effects in A Preliminary Study On The Effects Of Fatigue On Firefighters.
Village officials have complained recently about the cost of overtime getting “out of hand.” Prior to outsourcing the 911 dispatching service, similar arguments were made about high dispatcher salaries, inflated due to overtime made necessary by understaffing.