Texarkana, TX firefighters upset about potential policy change - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Texarkana, TX firefighters upset about potential policy change

(Source: KSLA News 12) (Source: KSLA News 12)

Texarkana, Texas firefighters are in a wait and see mode after the city council failed to vote on an issue they say will change a 62-year-old agreement with city hall regarding what is called swap time.

Texarkana Texas firefighters and their families packed the council chambers Monday night to express opposition to a change in the city's personnel policy regarding swap time.

Swap time allows a firefighter to pay a fellow employee to cover his shift without having to use personal time off. 

Scott Robertson, president of the Texarkana firefighter's union, says the current agreement has been in effect for 62 years.

"It is a major deal to us," said Robertson. "It is a real serious deal and it is kind of hanging over us it is like a monkey on our backs."

City Manager John Whitson says federal law allows for swap time to take place if it is approved by the employer.

Whitson says he does not want to see the entire swap time practice end, but he wants it to be better regulated.

"So, if you worked for somebody up to five shifts you would have to stop working until you get those paid back the same as if someone worked for you," said Whitson.

"It is the same as a pay cut," said Robertson. "It is a serious deal we are going to have to step back and decide what we are going to do next."

The city manager says this proposed change could keep the city out of a lawsuit if someone is not paid for swap time. He also believes the change will help with firefighter's safety.

"It would allow for the city to keep up with and assure we don't have firefighters overly fatigue and we don't have fire fighters miss so much training that they are not current to be on the job," said Whitson.

This is the second time the issue has come before the city council. Earlier this year the proposed changed was voted down. City manager Whitson said the he is not sure when the council will vote again on the matter.

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