Mehlville Fire continues schedule discussion, may partner with school district

Department will survey employees to get opinions

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By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

The Mehlville Fire Protection District Board of Directors continued a discussion at a June 23 meeting about the possibility of changing up 2023 schedules, with the main purpose being retention and recruitment.

The board first heard the topic June 8, with possible changes including changing the EMS schedule to a 3/4 schedule and the fire schedule to 48/96. A 3/4 schedule features a 24-hour shift every other day for five days, followed by four days off. The 48/96 schedule features a 48-hour shift followed by four days off.

Fire Chief Brian Hendricks had reservations about the safety concerns with long shifts. He recommended the board enact some policy changes and only do a one-year trial of any change. These changes would be to trade time and sick leave policy — trade time would be modified to disallow shifts of 60 hours or more, nonservice sick leave would no longer count for overtime and changes to attendance bonuses related to sick leave.

Hendricks said some employees currently work 48-72 hour shifts now with trade time, so a schedule change to longer shifts could make these more likely.

“I don’t believe a change to a work schedule such as a 48/96 is going to be a magic fix. I don’t believe this will 100 percent fix our retention problems,” Hendricks said. “This is an industry-wide problem. Everybody is having a difficult time finding people.”

In an effort to increase future recruitment opportunities, Hendricks said he is partnering with Lindbergh Schools Superintendent Tony Lake to create an outreach program to get people interested in the profession. 

Captain Ty Cardona, shop steward of Mehlville Local 2665 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said he has spoken to some EMS employees who want to see a survey about possible schedules before the board makes a decision. Cardona said the possible 3/4 was not popular due to employees only getting one day off a few times in a row.

Board members liked the idea of surveying the whole department to compare a 3/4 versus staying the same. 

“If we didn’t do the 48/96 and we did the 3/4 across the board, how would they feel about that?” Board member Bonnie Stegman said. 

The survey will include any possible policy changes to allow employees to make the most informed choice possible.