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Overworked firemen seeking relief

ST JOHN’S – “Overworked” firemen are routinely being forced to work up to three 24-hour shifts a week.

To add insult to injury, they are often made to forego several hours of their days off helping out with patrols for the equally understaffed police force — for no extra pay.

Fuming firefighters dubbed the demands “inhumane”, “cruel” and “inconsiderate”.

The four to five hours police patrol on two of their days off every week are on top of a gruelling estimated 60-hour working week with the fire brigade.

Several firemen spoke on condition of anonymity yesterday.

“Let’s say the shift starts on a Sunday at 9 a.m., it ends at 9 a.m. the Monday. We should be off for the rest of the Monday, but the Commissioner of Police would call us out to work from 1 o’clock to 5 o’clock or from 11 p.m. (Monday) to 4 a.m. (Tuesday). The officer would be off Tuesday, and on Wednesday we go into another 24-hour shift,” one officer complained.

According to the disgruntled officers, they are again rostered to work another four to five hours on police patrol the Thursday when the second 24-hour shift concludes.

They would be given a day off on the Friday and the third 24-hour shift would commence Saturday morning.

Firemen said they’ve been required to work alongside police on beat and patrol for almost two years.

While they acknowledged there are some days when no fire reports are made, they said they still have to toil to complete fire investigations, reports and records, among other things.

That’s on top of visits to schools, government offices and even private businesses to educate people on fire safety.

“We don’t get any extra money for the work (patrolling); we can’t leave the fire station for 24 hours, only once in a while and for very brief periods; and nobody outside the fire department is being asked to work on a day off.

“We want to resume the shifts we worked and if we are going to work with the police force then it can not be on a day off,” another officer argued.

Up to about four years ago, firemen reportedly worked from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for one day, the next day they would be off; and the day after they’d work 16 hours. (Antigua Observer)

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