KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas firefighters are being paid thousands of dollars for shifts they are not working, according to Mayor Mark Holland.
And it’s all because of a practice known as shift trading.
“It’s very troubling,” said Holland.
Shift trading is a common practice in fire departments across the country. Overland Park, for example, also allows its firefighters to trade shifts with others.
“There is virtually no fire department I am aware of that does not utilize the practice of shift trading in the workplace. None,” said Robert Wing who is the president of IAFF Local 64, which represents KCK firefighters.
Shift trading is designed to even itself out. One employee agrees to take another employee’s shift. Both are paid as though no trade ever took place because the same two people are expected to trade back.
However, Mayor Mark Holland told 41 Action News over the phone the system is “being abused.”
“Folks are completely abusing a system that we set up in good faith to allow them to trade time because of their 24-hour shifts. Instead of trading, they are selling,” said Holland.
The mayor is expected to call a special meeting Thursday to discuss the issue and a recent Unified Government report 41 Action News obtained Tuesday.
Although he has not been informed about the report or Thursday’s meeting, Wing denied the mayor’s allegation. He told 41 Action News over the phone, all shift trades are done by the book.
“Everyone is living by the letter of the law,” he said.
The report analyzes the fire department’s payroll. In one section, it lists 25 firefighters who have received 25 to 52 weeks of paid time off due to shift changing. One firefighter received more than $60,000 for time he never actually worked due to shift trading, according to the report.
“Why are we paying people who aren’t at work? Why don’t we just pay the people who come back to work,” Holland said.
Shift trading is legal per the union’s contract with the Unified Government, which was agreed upon January 2017. However, the contract says firefighters are not supposed to trade more than 24 shifts a year. Anything more, according to the contract, is considered “abuse.” There are exceptions, which include union business and duty-related education or training.
“There are no allegations to this minute from the fire department that there is any abuse by the agreed upon language between the employee and KCKFD. And there have been no violations that have come across my desk,” said Wing.
Local 64 supported Holland’s opponent during the mayoral election. Several firefighters 41 Action News reached out to believe the report is a final shot at the department. Holland lost the election.
He denies these allegations.
“We need to do a better job at enforcing our own safety standards,” Holland said. “This is just outrageous behavior that needs to stop.”