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Balto. Co. 911 employees hold rally to protest working conditions

People rally for Baltimore County 911 workers.
People rally for Baltimore County 911 workers. (Pam Wood)

Several dozen union members rallied for Baltimore County 911 employees in Towson on Monday night after workers raised concerns about high turnover, mandatory overtime, vacancies and proposed changes to their shifts.

John Ripley, president of the Baltimore County Federation of Public Employees, which represents the workers, said there's been no progress in discussions with the county administration over the workers' concerns.

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Union members previously raised the same concerns at a County Council meeting in the spring.

"We stand ready to work with them," Ripley said, as union members marched on a sidewalk next to the county government's main office building, the Historic Courthouse in Towson.

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Chanting, "Fair treatment," the demonstrators carried signs with such slogans as: "We want fair and honest negotiations."

The group included 911 workers from Baltimore City and members of other unions. Organizers refused to say how many of the demonstrators were Baltimore County 911 employees. Ripley said many 911 workers are afraid to speak publicly about working conditions in the center.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's administration has proposed moving 911 workers from fixed eight-hour shifts to 12-hour shifts that rotate between days and nights. The union says about 25 workers have left because they don't want to switch to the rotating shifts.

Because of the vacancies, employees have been pulled from the police and fire departments to staff the 911 center. According to the county, the center has 172 employees and 15 vacancies, with a training class of 23 people about to start.

The county has said the switch to rotating shifts is necessary to ensure that experienced workers are on all shifts, rather than being concentrated on the most desirable shifts.

Ripley said the county could try adding incentives, such as more pay, for the less-desirable shifts instead of forcing workers to change to rotating shifts. And he disputed that problems have arisen because of inexperienced workers, saying the county has about 10 complaints per year out of 750,000 calls to 911.

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