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Mass. firefighters union blames city leaders for decline in morale, working conditions and safety

Worcester Firefighters Local 1009 released information from a survey of members from a year ago after reporting no change by the city administration


Active and retired Worcester firefighters who died in the past year were remembered in a ceremony on Oct. 13, 2019.

Scott Croteau/TNS

By Adam Bass

WORCESTER, Mass. — A Worcester firefighters union is accusing Worcester City Manager Eric Batista’s administration of creating a work environment that is “toxic and demoralizing.”

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday, Worcester Firefighters Local 1009 wrote that the 425 members of the fire department took a survey about the quality of a range of topics, such as safety, morale, leadership and training.

According to the union, the survey was conducted 18 months ago to better understand the current climate within the Worcester Fire Department .

The results of the survey were brought to the city manager’s office in February and were originally intended to be private, according to a union statement.

“After months of no change, we found it necessary to go public,” the statement read.

In a statement to MassLive, Batista said that his administration is committed to the well-being of firefighters in Worcester and defended the findings of the ESCI report.

“The overall health and safety of the membership is a priority for the city’s administration, balancing the needs of the community with the needs of the department,” Batista said. “Membership remains steadfastly dedicated to the public they serve and to the oath they take as a Worcester Firefighter.”

Since Wednesday, the union has been posting different findings from the survey on its social media accounts.

Some of these findings were that 90% of respondents expressed fear of negative consequences for using sick time, and 81% reported coming to work while sick or injured because they were afraid to use sick time. Another finding was that only 6% of respondents said the relationship between the administration and Local 1009 is “good,” highlighting possible tensions between the two bodies behind the scenes.

The rest of the 13-page survey has yet to be revealed, but the union wrote that they will continue to release more information throughout the month.

“We feel an obligation to release these results to our members and the citizens of Worcester,” the union wrote.

The survey came three years after the City of Worcester hired Emergency Services Consulting International (ESCI) to conduct a study for a plan to prevent line-of-duty deaths and create better command structures for firefighters. The plan, which was revealed in September 2021 , called for stronger communication, chain of command systems, and better training protocols.

On X, the union said that the proposal has resulted in “experienced few improvements” for its members and that they have “noticed a significant decline in working conditions, morale and overall safety of our firefighters.”

William Mosley , the president of Worcester Firefighters Local 1009 , told MassLive that he began to see these problems when he was first elected union president last year. Mosley said it was his and the union’s intention to re-establish a better relationship with the administration but accused Batista of not following through on the process.

“We found out quickly there really doesn’t seem to be that kind of interest for change,” Mosley said.

Mosley told MassLive the union had not decided to go on strike but that it is looking to conduct another survey to gather more information regarding the lack of morale among members.

“The firefighters in Worcester have taken it upon themselves to hire the same company, ESCI, to conduct a survey of our members regarding safety, policies and procedure,” the union wrote.

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