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911 call-takers approve shift change on trial basis

Erie County 911 call-takers have approved a pilot agreement to create a 12-hour work day schedule. A majority of the 33 CSEA call-takers voted Thursday to approve what they say will be an improvement to their work-life balance.

The deal between the county and the union aims to ensure no call-taker works more than three days in a row, guarantees every other weekend off and sharply reduces or eliminates forced overtime.

Denise Szymura, CSEA Erie County Local 815 President, says making this operational change to work schedules will ultimately improve public services and perhaps save a life.

“When issues arise in the delivery of public services, especially public safety, it’s a comfort to know we have partners in local government who want the best for our community. This agreement ratified by the call center employees is a win-win scenario for the residents of Erie County,” says Szymura.

"The complaints aren't coming in from the public. We're not hearing people saying, 'I called 911 and I'm not getting an answer,'' said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz when the memorandum of understanding was announced. "This is an issue with regards to workplace environment and the level of stress that can be put on the workers and we want to make sure that if you're answering the phone for the 911 call center, you're doing the best job possible for the people of Erie County."

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond

Poloncarz said vacancies also were filled to help reduce workplace stress. At the same announcement, Legislature Majority Leader Joseph Lorigo said he had been receiving complaints from dispatchers and requests to switch their schedule. "At least allowing them to take this vote to see if they can switch their schedule is a step in the right direction," Lorigo said.

CSEA Spokesman Ove Overmyer told WBFO Wednesday this is a case of all sides coming together to work out a solution to an important issue.

The schedule change will go into effect January 1 and be implemented on a six-month trial basis. The union says the county's 911 Call Center at Central Police Services handles more than half a million calls a year.