Despite signing a Class & Compensation Agreement in August 2022 that would provide desperately needed staffing support for dispatchers and call-takers, the Boston Police Department continues to delay enacting critical measures to avoid dispatcher burnout.
The agreement included a temporary moratorium on the City of Boston Residency Ordinance to reduce the undue overtime burden on current employees. Additional staffing assistance was also built into the agreement by requiring the Boston Police Department to contact State 911 Certified dispatchers and call-takers from other agencies on a per diem basis if staffing shortages persist after the voluntary overtime list is exhausted.
“We fought hard to insert some common-sense policy into this contract after we saw staff member after staff member come to us with concerns of extreme exhaustion during the pandemic,” said SEIU President Tom McKeever. “BPD’s refusal to adequately address the staffing crisis is dangerous and undermines the City’s ability to respond to emergencies. Our dispatchers deserve better, and so does the City of Boston.”
The current dispatcher contract followed reports of tremendous staff burnout due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and came after more than 20 years without updated or upgraded job descriptions. Updates in the agreement were urgently needed considering the significant changes to the workload and complexity of the dispatchers’ responsibilities due to technological advances, population growth, and heightened public scrutiny and expectations.
To address the financial disparities in dispatcher compensation, the agreement contains substantial pay raises for existing personnel, increases starting salaries, provides retention bonuses, shift differentials, and assures cost-of-living-adjustment raises. Because the City’s population has grown even more diverse in recent years, language shift differentials are included in the agreement to incentivize bilingual employees and applicants. The agreement also contains a return-to-work enticement bonus in an effort to attract dispatchers who left between July 2021 to July 2022.
Further, the contract adjusts the operations employees from a 5 and 2 schedule to a 4 and 2 schedule once 85% of the call-taker and dispatcher positions are filled to allow for proper staffing. A four-days-on and two-days-off schedule mirrors the “Squad” format of the sworn personnel of the Boston Police Department. Employees wishing to maintain a five-days-on and two-days-off schedule may choose to do so.
“All of these items were agreed upon to ensure that we were honoring the work of these first responders and, importantly, to ensure the stability of the City of Boston’s 911 system,” added McKeever.