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November 30, 2013

Salem official questions firefighters', officers' hour

Selectman wants to limit Salem employee hours

(Continued)

“It doesn’t happen,” he said.

There is a small group of six to eight employees who work nearly 60 hours a week, but that’s it, Hickey said.

Amending the policy would affect employee contracts, meaning new hourly limits would have to be negotiated with the unions, Hickey said. Police and firefighters compromising public safety by working excessive hours, including traffic details, has not been an issue, he said.

“Trying to regulate this, I don’t think makes any sense,” Hickey said.

When asked about the issue Wednesday, Campbell said he didn’t know of any particular safety problems that occurred because of employees working too many hours. His goal is to take action before that kind of situation arises.

“There are decisions in public safety that are life or death,” said Campbell, an accountant and son of a former Salem police official. “Can you work as effectively if you get up to 70 to 80 hours? No one does. If I make a mistake as an accountant, I have an eraser.”

Not just a safety issue

Deputy police Chief Shawn Patten, president of the Salem Public Administrators Association, takes issue with Campbell’s claims and said employee hours are carefully managed through the police department’s policy enacted in 1990.

The policy and employee contracts allow for his officers to work overtime and details — something that Campbell and other selectmen have no say over, he said.

Allowing officers to work extra hours is especially important now with the reconstruction of Interstate 93 and other roads requiring extra officers to manage traffic flow during the construction, Patten said. With the onset of the holiday season, additional officers must also be deployed at The Mall at Rockingham Park and other retail venues, he said.

Patten, who outlined his concerns about Campbell’s request in a letter to Hickey and town Human Resources Director Molly McKean, said the selectman is worried about having to pay employees overtime, not public safety.

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