How some Boston firefighters get paid for shifts they never worked

The Globe reports on abuse of a shift-swapping system designed to replace firefighters out sick.

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taxpayer abuse by scores of Boston firefighters

Imagine being paid to run a firehouse and having a guy on your team who doesn't show up for work because he's busy selling houses, and you let this go on day after day and year after year.

Boston taxpayers pay their money and its really is a kick in the balls to learn this kind of abuse takes place in the ranks of public servants.

Mayor Menino, Fire Commissioner Frasier and Rich Paris president of Firefighters Local 718 need to address this abuse promtly so that the good name of the Boston Firefighters is not dragged through the mud by a "scores of Boston firefighters whose shifts have been covered by others for weeks or months at a time, with no record they have ever reciprocated and worked off the debt.."

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WTF?

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OK, every place I've ever worked, you fill out a time sheet or use a payroll web app every week indicating how many hours you worked that week. At places that give you sick and vacation time, you have the option of using time from these banks to get up to your regular number of hours, but you still indicate this and it comes out of your bank. You might have people covering things for each other, but each person still submits the actual number of hours worked (or sick/vacation used). Is this really that hard?

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Oh they submit the actual number of hours worked

they just don't tell them they have to pay them back.

Calling in sick when you owe someone a swap is a no-no though and is a result of poor supervision. Once someone calls in sick on a swap payback in most police and fire departments, that someone is not allowed to swap anymore.

I'm suprised there isn't a written policy from HR or the contract though which detials exactly how swaps can be used.

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Then it isn't the actual number

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If I work 32 hours and was sick one day, I have to either submit for 32 regular and 8 unpaid, or 32 regular and 8 sick. If I leave my boss a message that I'm leaving early one day just for the hell of it (assuming here that it was just paperwork time and I didn't shirk any scheduled responsibilities), I submit 39 regular and 1 unpaid, or 39 regular and 1 vacation.

Someone who covers my work also submits their exact hours worked. Their payroll and mine have nothing to do with one another, and we both submit exactly what we really truly worked.

If I do any swapping of my schedule, like if I work late on Thursday and leave early on Friday, I write "10" for Thursday and "6" for Friday, and put it for 40 for the week. I don't ever falsify actual hours worked. "Regular" pay means I was working the actual hours I put in. "Sick" means home sick or at a doctor's appointment. "Vacation" means any non-sick time that I was not actually at work and wish to be paid. Sick and vacation come out of my accrued banks. Putting down anything other than the hours actually worked or using sick time for anything other than illness or appointments is a fireable offense. This is basically the same as everywhere I've ever worked.

Really, how difficult is it to have a policy in which you submit for the actual hours you really personally worked? Just like damn near every other workplace on the planet does.

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Assuming its the same in the paycheck in all city depts

When one employee swaps a shift with another employee, the paycheck at the end of the week is the same. Swaps are internal scheduling processes that would not show up in any sort of bank. The swap is still on record somewhere apparently (if the globe can get it), but the policy doesn't seem to be enforced (if there is one requiring people to pay swaps back within a certain amount of time)

In theory swap systems save money for the department, and in the end the taxpayer.

Although this is an interesting story, on a scale of 1-100 of taxpayer abuse within fire departments, the swap system is about a 10, while sick use is a 99.

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It's in the longer article

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They're obligated to work a certain number/kind of shifts every month. They're getting paid for exactly what they worked, but the swapping covers the obligation part when they work a different distribution of shifts.

From the article:

Contractually, firefighters are supposed to work 16 shifts a month — half of them 10-hour daytime shifts and the other half 14-hour nighttime shifts. In many firehouses, however, they swap shifts so they work 10-hour and 14-hour shifts back-to-back, from 8 a.m. to 8 a.m. That system, a boon to those with second jobs, allows firefighters to work eight 24-hour shifts a month.

Those swaps, which represent the bulk of the shift-trading, most often even out, with firefighters making clean exchanges. There is no payroll adjustment for swapped shifts, just an understanding each firefighter will ultimately work the shifts he or she has been paid for. A small percentage of the deficit on the books represents acts of compassion. One example: shifts worked for colleagues tending to ill family members, with no expectation they be repaid.

There is another feature to the system, a perk the department is reluctant to halt: Some firefighters work a substantial number of added shifts in the winter so they can take much of the summer off. And vice versa: Other firefighters are happy to work extra summer tours so they, in turn, can escape to Florida for part of the winter.

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