Concerns of who will be hired enter into most discussions of privatization. Will the workers be qualified? Will they receive enough wages to keep turnover low? Will the company outsource overseas? All of these questions and more crop up when you are talking about a community’s first responders.
“We do a wage analysis survey of a geographic area,” says Consalvos. “Our pay is a little bit higher than what the surrounding territory offers because our goal is to recruit and retain the best candidates.” The company offers full health care and a 401k with a company match for full-time and part-time employees. The company offers performance-based bonus awards of $700 to $3,000 a year, including a quarterly peer-awarded iXP award.
Individuals seeking employment with iXP must go through a hiring process that includes an interview, criminal background check and testing procedures. At iXP’s Georgia center, 90 percent of their employees came from other agencies and call centers. “We absolutely believe in our model and our employees,” states Consalvos.
Training is another key item to providing quality of service, and one in which many agencies face the inability to provide both initially and on-going. “We use APCO training,” states Consalvos. “We do EMD.” iXP encourages all employees to participate in public safety communication groups such as the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO). “They are important to the industry,” he explains. APCO declined to make a statement regarding the issue.
In a public agency, most increases in wages and benefits are negotiated. The union debates with government managers to come up with cost of living and salary increases. As you earn longevity, your pay increases regardless of performance. With iXP, employees earn their keep. “Besides the economic benefits, we are under a performance matrix,” says Consalvos. “We have staffing requirements and call time requirements. We’ll step up to those standards contractually.” The company passes those performance requirements on to their employees expecting a level of service that provides quality. Based on this, employees work under a pay-for-performance matrix.
One of the concerns about privatization is operators will no longer know their area or be familiar with the officers they work with. iXP counters this. “Our communications centers have to be in the regional area for the communities we support,” says Consalvos. “They have to be close to the public safety agencies so they can participate in ride-alongs, and so public safety people can come in and spend time in the center.”
Although neither side believes cost is the most important factor in determining whether 911/police dispatching services should remain public, it is the main reason driving governments to look at alternatives. “The long term cost of employees doesn’t end when the employee retires,” Consalvos says. Entering into a private contract creates financial predictability, he explains, stating they can enter into a long-term fixed price contract. He uses Arizona as an example, “They are facing budgetary limitations due to long term pensions. They can no longer put firefighters or police officers on the street because they are paying for employees that are no longer providing a service.”
Cohen doesn’t believe the fiscal solution is out-sourcing, but improving from within. “I want to invest in them and high quality management,” explains Cohen. “It’s about good or not good management not about going private.”
Cohen states public service should be just that—public. One of the main reasons is accountability. “We have the ultimate ability to vote in and vote out the people that make the choices,” says Cohen. “You remove accountability when you get further out. The private company is accountable to more than just us. When you have a public safety controlled and managed by the public, you have complete control over the workforce and the ability to be flexible.