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More than 550 Memphis police call in sick in 'blue flu' protest

By Tim Ghianni

More Than 300 Memphis Police Officers Call Out Sick

(Reuters) - More than 550 police officers from Memphis, Tennessee, called in sick on Tuesday, a quarter of the department, in an escalating protest over cuts in health benefits that could eventually cost some officers their jobs, the city's mayor said.

The so-called "blue flu" wave started June 30 and has grown daily in an apparent protest to a new Memphis budget that raises the health premiums active city workers pay and cuts retiree health benefits, officials said.

"I understand the disappointment these officers feel," Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr said in a statement. "However, disappointment is not an excuse to abuse the sick leave policy and refuse to perform the duties they are paid to carry out to ensure public safety."

More than 550 of the department's 2,200 officers called in sick Tuesday. Memphis has canceled vacations and other scheduled time off for officers to take up the slack and the Shelby County sheriff has helped fill in gaps, officials said.

Wharton said public safety has not been compromised and the city would do whatever is necessary to keep it that way.

Officers staging a sick-out can be disciplined up to termination, Wharton said, urging Memphis police association leaders to denounce the sick-out and urge officers who are not sick to return to work.

"It's a tough predicament," said Memphis City Councilman Lee Harris, chairman of the council's budget committee. "The public in general supports our officers, but everyone is anxious and concerned."

Harris said the new city budget, which he voted against, raises health care premiums by 24 percent for active city workers and eliminates a city contribution for retirees to save $23 million.

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JANERO July 09 2014 at 1:28 PM

This is only the beginning....what do you think the hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who are illegally being allowed and purposely bussed into the country is going to do to every cities budget across the US?

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6 replies
bobbro100 July 09 2014 at 12:42 PM

Unions, including the public employee unions, campaigned for ObamaCare. Now ObamaCare is causing health insurance to be more expensive than ever, putting local governments in a bind. These public employees are getting what they asked for.

Flag Reply +29 rate up
7 replies
rocker July 09 2014 at 12:18 PM

Wharton said public safety has not been compromised ok lets fire the 550 as it would seem we dont need them

Flag Reply +29 rate up
9 replies
rcalley1 July 09 2014 at 12:06 PM

They should all call in and thank Obama for this! It is his healthcare policy which forced the city of Memphis to do what they did. If I were Mayor, all personnel who claim to have the blue flu would be immediately fired and new people would be hired. This problem is easy to solve, fire them and hire new. There are plenty of people who are willing to work.

Flag Reply +28 rate up
22 replies
noteugene July 09 2014 at 12:38 PM

public safety has not been comprimised? let them stay home then. you pull a stunt like that at where most people work & you'll be handed a pink slip.

Flag Reply +19 rate up
tneill1031 July 09 2014 at 12:51 PM

What, did their premiums go from $4.00 a month to $5.00 a month.

Flag Reply +15 rate up
9 replies
Bob July 09 2014 at 1:15 PM

I remember back in the 1980's the Air Traffic Controllers went on strike and President Reagan gave them 24 hours to return or be fired. A lot of them didn't believe President Reagan but he followed though and the Courts upheld his firing.

Flag Reply +14 rate up
4 replies
lschck July 09 2014 at 12:24 PM

shows you how loyal they really are. if we protest, we get beaten up and arrested. I hope all these over paid thugs lose their jobs.no republicans are the cause of all our problems, because they are all criminals.

Flag Reply +13 rate up
6 replies
chuck July 09 2014 at 2:07 PM

oh gee, i guess obomacare isnt working here?

Flag Reply +13 rate up
1 reply
barryaclarke chuck July 09 2014 at 2:30 PM

Looking at Obamacare, it was designed to insure the uninsured entitlement folks by first making the insured uninsured and then make them pay more to be insured again so the original uninsured can be insured for free.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
BadAttitude barryaclarke July 09 2014 at 2:44 PM

Are you sure?

Flag 0 rate up
shalebrook barryaclarke July 09 2014 at 5:46 PM

Your logic is-unfortunately for us all-impeccable.

Flag 0 rate up
arnoldhoneybrown July 09 2014 at 12:14 PM

Memphis officials like Obama can't run a government ! Memphis spent $20 million on River Walk . Memphis spend Millions on BP Pyramid rebuilding . Memphis give garbage workers who turned down 401 in Kings march ,now gives them millions !
Wounded officers on Forced retirement ( Hurt for life) insurance is going from $365 60 $1,460 . WOW

Flag Reply +10 rate up
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