Response to SUN article on 911 Call Center employees

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City Union of Baltimore President Yvonne Rice Responds to Baltimore Sun Article on 911 Call Center Employees

The issues raised in a recent Baltimore Sun article involving citizens receiving busy signals and facing dropped calls are occurring more frequently now than previously. This Union has pointed out in numerous meetings with the current management that the problem is exacerbated, in large part, by continued understaffing and high employee turnover due to a stressful and heavy workload, coupled with management’s indifference. The City Union of Baltimore is in full support of the efforts by the Baltimore City Council to return the 911 operators and emergency dispatchers to the authority of the Baltimore Police Department.

Other changes have resulted in increased workload for employees of the call center.  Some employees are now required to field non-emergency 311-calls in addition to their 911 emergency calls, taking critical time from handling emergency situations. We’ve found that 911 calls have increased approximately 20% during the summer of 2015 over the same period last year.  With the increased volume, additional non-emergency workload, understaffing and high turnover the results were predictable.

The efforts of the City Council couldn’t be more timely. The employees of Baltimore City’s call center are faced with the difficult choice between remaining in an overworked, stress-inducing position under the supervision of the Information Technology Department or resign their position to relieve them of the incredibly stressful environment. Many have elected the latter. Recently, call center employees have found the need to file Complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor over management’s claimed violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).  As of today, they await a response.

Call center management has recently recognized the high turnover and need for additional staffing by training approximately ten new hires that should complete their training in early November as stated in the SUN article. That number will not suffice. Without substantial operational and organizational changes, continued turnover will likely eliminate the potential gain within a short period of time.

Employees frequently report that when the 911 call center was part of and managed by the Baltimore Police Department, employees were treated with respect and recognized as an important partner in service to the community and the citizens of Baltimore. The City Union of Baltimore, on behalf of its 911 call center members proudly embraces and supports the efforts of visionary City Council Members and extends a special thank you to Councilpersons Nick Mosby and Mary Pat Clark for their leadership in this effort.

Yvonne C. Rice, President
City Union of Baltimore, Local 800, AFT, AFL-CIO

2015-10-01