The Comm Ops (emergency dispatch) department at the City of Vallejo has been short staffed for some time, with just six fully trained Communications Operators working mandated 16-hour shifts. The staffing shortage in this essential department, which handles all the 9-1-1 calls for the City, reached crisis levels during the first week of July. Due to scheduled vacations and regular days off, the schedule was down to one Comm Ops employee for day shift and one Comm Op employee for night shift on multiple days.
It’s impossible for one employee to run a 9-1-1 dispatch center alone (especially during one of the busiest holiday weeks of the year), not to mention highly unsafe for first responders and the public.
Management spoke about the need to possibly mandate Comm Op employees work on their days off, or force employees to cancel their scheduled vacations. On behalf of the IBEW 1245 members in the Comm Op department, I immediately called the Vallejo HR Director and noted that there was no language in the MOU that permits the City to cancel vacations or force employees to work on their days off.
These employees are already working 16-hour shifts to keep the department afloat in a citywide staffing shortage. Like many classifications in Vallejo, Communications Operators are underpaid in comparison to neighboring cities, even after IBEW 1245 negotiated 17-18% equity adjustments for the Comm Ops classification in 2022, which makes staffing a continuous challenge.
I reached out to 1245 Senior Business Rep Sheila Lawton for her perspective, and she pointed me towards a similar case in the airline industry, where the employer ended up paying employees triple time to work on their days off.
Subsequently, IBEW 1245 proposed a side letter agreement paying Communication Operator employees triple time for all hours worked July 1 through July 11, to encourage employees to voluntarily work on their scheduled days off or change vacation plans. The City of Vallejo agreed.
— Kim Camatti, IBEW 1245 Business Representative