If there really was a Grinch to steal Christmas joy, he’d probably set up shop in Chester, at least for police and firefighters. The domino effect of a financially-distressed municipality that is the City of Chester is now plaguing its police and fire departments, with both unable to receive their annual holiday bonuses this year.
According to the Chester Fire Department’s union president of Local 1400, Stacey Landrum, both departments are allotted additional money during the holiday season, per their contracts with the city, but the additional money anticipated to be spent on Christmas shopping will not reach first responders’ pockets until after the New Year… they are hoping.
“We’ve been having regular meetings in the last few months about contract negotiations,” Landrum said. “I have to look at in the grand scheme of things…They can’t pay you where they don’t have it. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s disappointed; it’s Christmas time.”
Holiday pay describes additional pay distributed to civil service employees during nationally recognized holidays-Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, to name a few- in which city employees receive paid time off.
Unlike their civil service counterparts, police officers and fire fighters are usually working on those major holidays because crime and fire fighting is, as Landrum puts it, a “27/4 operation,” so they receive “holiday pay.”
The exact amount each gets, Landrum explained, depends on the rank and seniority of each employee; for rookies or novice employees, the expected amount is “a few hundred” while seniors receive “a few thousand.”
Local 1400’s president said the union already filed a grievance the day the money was due, but Landrum said he “trusts” that the city will keep its word “when the financial situation is better.”
Chester Fire Commissioner Travis Thomas echoed Landrum’s hopefulness saying, “I have confidence they will overcome all of the challenges they face in the city.”
In the event the city’s promise collapses, come the New Year, Landrum said the issue will be brought to an arbiter, which will render the final decision.
William Penn Lodge 19’s president, Charles Bothwell, did not return calls to explain how the matter effects the Chester Police Department, but sources within the department confirmed that the city “is broke” and police officers will not receive their holiday pay this year.