Chicago firefighters protest after promotional exams cancelled due to technical issues

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago firefighters are hitting the picket lines after promotional exams were cancelled because of technical problems last week.

Many carried signs Wednesday that said "exam scam 2020," referring to the oral exams scheduled for roughly 1,600 firefighters vying to become lieutenants and 120 candidates for battalion chief.

"When you get a test every 10, 11, 12 years, you may only have one or two opportunities in your whole career to take an exam," said Mark Egan of the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2.

Firefighters reported to McCormick Place last Monday and Tuesday for the test. Computers started failing on the first day, delaying the test takers for hours. Many were sent home without taking the exam.

When problems continued on Tuesday, Fire Commissioner Richard Ford went to McCormick Place to see what was happening and cancelled the exam.

"Last one was 11 years ago. If you're a member with nine years on, this is the first time you get to take a test and this fiasco happens, where it has to be cancelled on the second day? It's unacceptable," said Jim Tracy, president of the city's firefighters union.

A California-based company called CPS HR Consulting was paid nearly $1.5 million to administer the exam. It's had a partnership with the city for several years, and is working with the fire department to fix the problem.

A Chicago Fire Department spokesperson said, "We expect nothing less than a seamless administration of its examinations, which is why we require vendors to ensure their equipment is vigorously tested to prevent technological issues and any undue burden caused to firefighters devoting their time to participate, and those who cover their shifts."

Egan said "people are very upset."

"They put their lives on hold to study for this and so it's pretty traumatic for the people who are involved in this," Egan said.

ABC7 has repeatedly reached out to CPS HR Consulting to get more clarification as to what exactly caused the computer glitch that disrupted the exam, but the company has yet to respond.

At this point, it remains unknown when the test will be administered again.
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