'Blue Flu' costs city nearly $500,000 in overtime

'Blue Flu' costs city nearly $500,000 in overtime
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - The "Blue Flu" has, so far, cost Memphis Police Department almost $500,000 in overtime.

City officials have acknowledged that the sick calls referred to as "Blue Flu" are in protest of a city council vote to cut health care subsidies and raise insurance premiums for city employees, including police officers and firefighters.

To deal with the sick calls, scheduled vacations and days off were canceled and many officers were forced to work overtime.

WMC Action News 5 requested a breakdown of the overtime costs:

  PII Sgt Lt
Hours      8,275.96 1,016.33 2,101.66
Pay rate $38.64 $42.57 $46.13
Total $319,783.09 $43,265.17 $96,949.58
Grand total   $459,997.84    

Monday, July 7 through Sunday, July 13, more than 500 officers called in sick.

City Council Chairman Jim Strickland was shocked the number reached was more than double the average.

"From the city's perspective it was money well spent, because we had to pay overtime to cover the streets for the officers who were out," he said. 

But from a budget perspective, he says it certainly isn't helping the problem.

"When you look at the dollars spend we are in a very tight budget, we have $100 million debt that we're trying to deal with, involving retiree health care and pensions, and a half million dollars would be money better spent doing something else," he said.

The half a million dollars in overtime doesn't take into account the paid sick time for the officers who called out sick. But taxpayers are split on the issue, balancing public safety with taking a stand for those who protect this city.

Director Armstrong was not available for comment Friday, and WMC didn't hear back from the City of Memphis as of 6 p.m.

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