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'Blue Flu' weakens; 'Red Rash' strengthens - Live5News.com | Charleston, SC | News, Weather, Sports

'Blue Flu' weakens; 'Red Rash' strengthens

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Because of the sick calls, MFD was forced to pull four trucks out of service (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Because of the sick calls, MFD was forced to pull four trucks out of service (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
Eighty Memphis firefighters are out sick — the department's highest number in one day. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5) Eighty Memphis firefighters are out sick — the department's highest number in one day. (Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC) - Memphis' so-called "Red Rash" was at its worst on Saturday night. Eighty Memphis firefighters called out sick. It was the department's highest number in one day.

Now, the same group that successfully prevented city cuts from closing Fire Station 6 last August is speaking out for the firefighters. They say it's time for residents to speak out for the employees.

Community Partners of North Memphis held a news conference to announce it wants the city to keep the current health care plan in tact.

"We decided to come out and speak out because we do care because it does affect all of us," said Linda Ward. "We're here to give them all of our support."

Meanwhile, the number of firefighters out sick has steadily increased since midweek.

Memphis Fire Association President Thomas Malone says he understands that instability can put mental strain on employees, but says the only people hurt right now are the firefighters filling in for the people who are out sick.

"We had three quit this week. Every time somebody leaves this job, we're letting $100,000 to $300,000 of training walk out the door. That's tax dollars also," said Malone.

With all the sick calls, the fire department was forced to pull four trucks out of service at the fire stations on Union Avenue, South Main, Mendenhall and East Raines.

Malone is not prepared to call this a job action, but the department is just nine sick calls away from calling in mutual aid to get help from surrounding fire departments.

Minister Jimmie Franklin hopes both sides can come together to negotiate a better deal for city workers.

"They are outnumbered. But with they can never be outnumbered with the citizens that we have backing them up giving them the strength to be able carry out their job," said Franklin. "If there's any way they can make a cut or drop something else, make sure these fire and policemen get their money, they deserve every penny they got."

It's unclear if city leaders and the labor unions will meet to iron things out.

A possible sales tax hike is up for discussion to smooth things over. Officers and firefighters are protesting recent cuts handed down by Memphis City Council.

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