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FDNY inspectors not being properly compensated for OT work, union says


Correction: Mike Reardon is a deputy chief fire inspector and sits on the executive board of DC37's Local 2507. An earlier version of this story  misidentified him as the vice president of Local 2507.

This story has been updated to include comments from an FDNY spokesperson.

High-ranking fire protection inspectors at the FDNY are conducting after-hours inspections without being properly compensated because of cuts to the department’s overtime budget, leaders of the union representing the inspectors said.

The inspectors typically conduct their checks of subway tunnels, the city’s bridges and certain businesses late at night, while on overtime, so as to not create traffic or delays. But the FDNY, union leaders said, has drastically lowered the overtime cap for many level-two and level-three fire protection inspectors — captains and deputy chief inspectors —  who supervise these inspections, in order to comply with citywide budget cuts imposed last year.

But inspectors who have eclipsed their overtime cap are working after-hours anyway and are either tracking the overtime they work on paper in the hopes of being compensated later or working on compensatory time that allows them to cash in their hours later in the year for extra sick or vacation time, according to the unions. 

Mike Reardon, a deputy chief fire inspector and who sits on the executive board of District Council 37’s Local 2507, which represents fire inspectors and EMS workers at the FDNY, said that this was the first time in his more than 40 years of service that inspectors were not being fully compensated.

“We should be treated and respected like the uniformed employees are in every other agency,” Reardon said. "Why are they doing this? Because they're looking at us like civilians."

As part of citywide budget cuts announced in November 2023, the FDNY excised more than $70 million from its Fiscal Year 2024 budget, including almost $18 million in reductions in spending for civilian overtime and over $2.6 million in overtime reductions for its EMS employees.

But according to the budget document outlining the cuts, only the department's civilian employees and EMS members should be affected by overtime cuts, and not the FDNY’s other uniformed employees. 

FDNY fire protection inspectors were granted uniform status in 2005 but neither they nor uniformed members of FDNY EMS have secured raises that conform to the pattern for other uniformed civil servants, and inspectors have long clamored for more respect from the department. “We should not be included in these cuts because we have a bargaining certificate and we’re not civilians,” Reardon said.

Before the cuts were imposed, inspectors could request to have their overtime cap raised if they needed to conduct the late-night inspections, he said, but that practice was largely halted last year. Just some members have had their requests approved, he said, but their overtime cap is raised by only a small amount.

There are 24 level three inspectors currently at their overtime cap and seven level two inspectors at the cap, Reardon added.

'Never had this problem before’

The inspectors also conduct checks for public firework shows, parades and other private events after-hours, and those too could soon be conducted by supervising inspectors not being properly paid. And, the union leaders pointed out, as the supervisors’ compensatory time builds up, it could lead to absences as the inspectors begin to take time off.

"We've never had this problem before when it came to the overtime cap, even with Bloomberg or with de Blasio,” said Darryl Chalmers, a retired deputy chief fire inspector who sits on the executive board of Local 2507. 

“In New York City, they do not look at the work that we do in fire prevention as being serious,” Chalmers added. 

A Fire Department spokesperson said that FDNY management has a right to restrict the assignment of overtime since it's not contractually guaranteed and noted that to raise a worker’s OT cap the FDNY must first get approvals from the city's Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Labor Relations. The spokesperson added that some overtime cap waivers have been granted for fire protection inspectors and that, for bargaining purposes, the inspectors are considered civilian employees.

Jason Schack, the supervising inspector in the FDNY’s fire alarm inspection unit, said that some of the workers in his unit have been already hit by their overtime cap, which has made it difficult to conduct inspections. “The FDNY set the bar really low for the overtime cap compared to other years,” he said. “It’s hard for our unit to work with a cap.”

Schack and his colleagues are civilian employees who inspect the fire alarm systems in businesses, daycare centers and other buildings that often prefer to have the FDNY inspectors come after business hours. More inspectors hitting their overtime caps means that these inspections must occur during regular business hours, with inspections then delayed or rescheduled.

Eventually, Schack believes, most inspectors will hit their overtime cap, meaning nearly all inspections would have to be conducted during business hours.

"We do a lot of inspections during the day, but a lot of people would rather do it at night,” he said. “If more people hit the [overtime] cap, they'll reschedule it to someone who isn't capped and eventually that will put more on that inspector and then he will get capped.”

Other civilian employees at the FDNY have yet to have issues due to overtime cuts. Laura Pirtle Morand, president of DC 37 Local 2627, said that she hasn't heard complaints from the 145 FDNY IT professionals she represents about overtime being limited.


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