County orders mandatory overtime for 911 dispatchers

Press Release –  Aug. 22, 2013

Khanh Weinberg   (408) 921-0098
Jerry Jimenez  (408) 219-9636

County orders mandatory overtime for 911 dispatchers

Workers ready to strike to protect public safety and community health care

San Jose, Calif. – Even as Santa Clara County officials dismiss concerns that the county struggles with recruitment and retention problems, county emergency dispatchers have been ordered to work overtime because of “staffing shortage.”

At a press conference today at Noon at 70 W. Hedding Street, Service Employees International Union, Local 521, which represents 60 dispatchers and a total of 9,000 county workers, will release the July 13 county notice which stated: “County Communications is currently experiencing a staffing shortage that, in our estimation, constitutes an emergency situation.”

Read the letter from the county (PDF)

Investing in a cutting-edge workforce has been at the crux of Local 521 members’ contract proposals with the county since negotiations began in April.

Dispatchers have already logged more than 2,030 hours of forced overtime this month.

“Emergency dispatchers are trained to give childbirth and CPR instructions over the phone.  They dispatch fire engines, ambulances, and sheriff’s deputies,” said Ryan Noble, a senior communications dispatcher. “When people dial 9-1-1, it is most likely the worst day of their life, and they are asking for help. Should that help come from a tired, overworked and burned out dispatcher?  Or do they deserve the best service the county can provide?”

Meanwhile, as health care reform becomes real on Jan. 1, 2014, Santa Clara County’s investment in health care frontline services is not much better.

More than 100,000 county residents will be eligible to buy lower-cost health insurance though Covered California, an online insurance exchange created to carry out the Affordable Care Act in California. This means the county’s Health and Hospital System will soon be competing for consumers who can choose to go to Stanford or Kaiser.

To succeed, the county must address the mounting problems related to recruiting and retaining a cutting-edge workforce to deliver the actual care.

  • The county’s retention rate for physical therapists is only 22%, lower than all other Bay Area hospitals. In three years, there have been 15 vacancies out of 42 full-time equivalent jobs.
  • The retention rate of pharmacists is 54%. Over the last two years, 15 pharmacists have left for higher-paying jobs elsewhere.

Also at press conference will be Dr. Russel Kosik, a Radiology Resident at Valley Medical Center. Dr. Kosik will be address the need to recruit highly qualified physicians-in-training, especially during the expansion of heath care access, to ensure the highest quality patient care.

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The Service Employees International Union is an organization of 2.1 million members united by the belief in the dignity and worth of workers and the services they provide.  SEIU is dedicated to improving the lives of workers and their families and creating a more just and humane society. For more information, visit

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One Response to “County orders mandatory overtime for 911 dispatchers”

  1. Dan Fiorenza says:

    I am grateful and recognize all the long hours and unpaid time that the
    CAT members spent on our behalf. However, that being said, I need to express
    how I really feel, and I’m sure I’m not alone but many members are keeping
    quiet and that is their prerogative to do so. I have a hard time accepting that after the countless hours and intense effort invested in the
    contract negotiations members were asked to ratify a contract that will give me
    enough (after tax) money to fill up my gas tank and have enough left over for a
    pizza, once a month. I’m not any
    closer to being able to buy a home, I still have to worry about running out of money between paychecks because rent
    takes 50% of my net income, I’m not any
    closer to being able to buy a new car to replace the 17 year old one I have now.
    Starting a savings account is still a pipe dream, taking a vacation a long shot
    fantasy. In other words this contract will change nothing for me and many
    others. To those of us who reside in Santa Clara County, easily one of the most
    expensive places to live on the planet, a 5% raise is comical. I urge you to look into the raises negotiated by the City
    of Hayward employees, the raises negotiated by the Alameda County Transit
    agency, all these contract negotiations took place concurrent to those of 521,
    so this information is fresh. Members for these public organizations will be
    getting raises in the high 9% range if not in the 10 % range, with contracts
    longer than one year and their raises commence upon ratification, not six months later. Keep in mind these are not
    large organizations in comparison to the entire county of Santa Clara work
    force. These organizations don’t have the economic might of the entire County
    of Santa Clara. Remember, we’re talking about AC Transit and the City of
    Hayward, not exactly economic power houses. It is my belief that our ratified
    contract will have a negative ripple effect for future contract negotiations at
    local , state and perhaps even nationwide levels. A bad precedent was set when
    this contract was ratified. From this point fourth when other public employee
    unions go to negotiations, negotiators for cities, counties, etc. will not be hesitant
    to offer substandard contracts. The thought process here will be: “If a 9000+
    work force accepted the meager terms they were offered why should we offer
    anything more?” A scenario that if repeated enough times will lead down a slippery slope where upon reaching
    the bottom will result in the dissolution of the socio-economic level known as:
    The American Middle Class. I can’t help but have nagging thoughts such as “how
    is it that the county casually dismisses its most valuable asset, it’s
    employees? To the point where a high ranking county official taunted Union
    management to “call a strike if it felt so inclined”, evidently not worried that
    a strike would make the county come to a grinding halt? I’d like to see the county
    negotiators and the county executive survive for one year on the compensation
    they stubbornly argue is adequate for us (that would never happen….). Take a
    moment to ponder did the 521 CAT members give in too soon? Did exhaustion give
    in to complacency? Could a strike, though economically painful for a moment, have
    been the tool needed to show the county we meant business and we were ready to
    stand our ground for a contract providing
    521 members to have an adequate, middle-class lifestyle? Food for thought my
    brothers and sisters, indeed, food for thought …..

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