The Philadelphia IAFF Local is pursuing a labor grievance after the department refused to pay eight hours of overtime for unvaccinated firefighters to take COVID-19 tests at home.
IAFF President Mike Bresnan told The Philadelphia Inquirer: “Whatever it is — 15 minutes, 20 minutes out of my time to do this to be able to report to work — you gotta pay us. We’re not trying to be greedy. We’re just trying to follow the rules like they want to follow the rules. Why would we want to see the Fire Department’s funding be sucked down for this?”
About 700 of the 2,300 firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs have secured exemptions from the vaccination mandate, almost all of them claiming they have religious beliefs. They are required to test weekly and log the results before returning to work.
The contract instructs firefighters to file a minimum of eight hours of overtime if they are required to work on days off, he told reporters.
Paying for at-home testing “would impact the City’s overtime costs — especially in departments, like Fire, that have a significant number of employees with approved exemptions,” Kevin Lessard, spokesperson for Mayor Jim Kenney told the paper.
“It is the City’s position that the time to perform both the at-home test and log the results of that test is de minimis and doesn’t significantly impose upon an employee’s schedule. For this reason, employees required to test at-home are not compensated for their time taking these tests and logging the results,” he said in a statement to the press.
At least two Philadelphia firefighters have died due to COVID-19.