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NYC 911 operators secure victory on flexible work schedules

NYC 911 operators secure victory on flexible work schedules
By Andrew Fernandez ·
Tags: Momentum

NEW YORK — Members of AFSCME District Council 37 and Mayor Eric Adams’ administration have reached an agreement on flexible scheduling and pay increases for 911 operators in the city.

The agreement, announced on Jan. 22, comes after months of negotiations with the city’s 911 operators, who raised concerns about scheduling and overwork by employees who represent the first link between the public and the city’s emergency services.

“I’m thrilled,” said Arisleydia Skinner, a 911 operator and a member of AFSCME Local 1549 (DC 37). “This is going to be a dramatic improvement in the lives of 911 operators, who are some of the city’s most essential public servants.”

The Adams administration agreed to allow for three- and four-day work schedules for 911 operators. The agreement includes sick leave procedures on seven designated critical response days when worker absences tend to be higher. It also provides eligible 911 operators and their supervisors a recruitment, retention, and attendance incentive in the form of a semi-annual $5,000 bonus — a total of $10,000 per year.

911 operators had been suffering for months under unsustainable scheduling practices that, in part, resulted from staffing issues. Union members say the city elected to solve these issues with Band-Aids, like repeatedly requiring employees to work double shifts, sometimes without notice and for multiple days in a row.

“We take our jobs very seriously.” Skinner said. “But the reality was that our schedules were unsustainable. This job takes a toll on you — so when we have members working 16-hour days, two, three, even five days in a row, we knew something had to change.”

Another 911 operator and union member, Yolanda Irizarry, said it got so desperate, people were bringing cots and sleeping bags to work.

“People would sleep in the locker room instead of going home because they would have to be back at work in six hours after their shift ended,” she said. “I don’t know how anyone does it — it’s loud and bright in there. It’s not a comfortable place to sleep.”

That is why this issue has been a priority for members of Local 1549 and DC 37. Without adequate rest and recovery, 911 operators would be unable to perform their duties to the standard they hold themselves to.  

“As a union, we knew a three- or four-day work week was always the solution,” Skinner said. “It means that we can still cover those night hours, while allowing for extra days to recover from those long days.”

She went onto say, “Winning this agreement is why I’m proud to be a union member. When we come together and fight for what we need, we can win in a way that makes it better not just for us as operators, but it improves the city’s services as well.”

DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido praised the agreement as the right thing to do for hardworking dispatchers.

“Our 911 operators are the first point of contact when New Yorkers face the worst moments of their lives, and they sacrifice so much for our city day in and day out,” Garrido said. “We fought to provide fair compensation, overtime limits and additional relief for our members in these negotiations, and we thank Mayor Adams for working with us to fix these inequities.”

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