Members of Norwich fire, police unions asking for time reimbursement from the city for days used during the pandemic

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NORWICH, Conn. (WTNH) — Firefighters in Norwich are the first responders in the downtown area. They go on medical calls alongside ambulance crews.

“Any difficulty breathing, any fever calls we would be going on,” said Michael Podzaline, President of Norwich Firefighters Local 892.

Police are also often on scene as they were this morning.

“Then we find out she had COVID. Just recently had COVID,” said Steven DeLoreto, President of Norwich Police Local 104.

They say firefighter and most police union members have had to use their own earned time while quarantining or waiting for COVID test results.

They say they’ve also had to use it if they contracted COVID-19.

“We have about nine members who directly contracted COVID, most of which I can directly relate to potential on the job exposure,” said Podzaline.

A few police officers were granted workers comp while they recovered from COVID but it may be difficult in many cases to determine exact exposure.

The unions want some COVID coverage like Norwich Public Utilities workers got when they were considered front line workers, making them eligible for up to 80 hours of Emergency Paid Sick Leave for COVID-19 related issues including “caring for a child whose school was closed.” 

“It’s time for the city to kind of have our back for once,” said Podzaline.

They say they were left out of the CARES Act money and are now hoping some of the $30 million the city is getting from the American Rescue Plan Act can cover their earned time losses.

“Now again is another opportunity to do the right thing,” said Podzaline.

News 8 did contact the mayor but he says because an unfair labor practice charge was filed by the firefighters union it would not be proper for an elected official to comment on this.

News 8 also went to the offices of the City Manager and the Human Resources Director who were unavailable.

“I don’t want them to get a check for their time, I just want their time back,” said Podzaline.

A plea first made Monday night during a public forum on how the rescue plan money will be spent.

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