Friday, Feb. 23, 2007 | Last Sunday the Las Vegas Review Journal‘s local lead article was the high salaries earned by public employees. Overtime was the big reason. Wednesday USA Today‘s front page lead was the retirements offered in the public sector. They were far better then those offered in the private sector. This was a nationwide study not just San Diego. In The San Diego Union-Tribune today there was another article about high overtime at the city. Some earned over $200,000 a year. The mayor or council doesn’t earn like that. The reason again here in San Diego was overtime.
Did I miss some “major catastrophy?” Was there another Cedar Fire? No, this overtime goes on day after day. We pay our fireman to sleep on the job, they live at the office. They work a few days a week and then work overtime, unless they have another job. I have heard that some work a lot of days one month and then go on long trips. At that pay they can afford some nice vacations. If we restructured the work hours, then we would have more firefighters trained for those big disasters.
In the private sector “overtime” was a payroll killer. It was a lot cheaper to hire more employees, train them and then have them ready to do the job. When the disaster hits then you have more trained firefighters, fresh to do a dangerous job. Have we studied the relationship between injuries and overtime? This is a dangerous job, they should be well paid. How about working shifts like the police department. They do a dangerous job and still work a schedule. They, too, have overtime problems which is a concern, but not to the level of the firefighters.
We expect our elected officials to bargain hard with our employees. It seems “the tail is wagging the dog.” The elected officials must represent the taxpayers.