Firefighters in the St. John's Regional Fire Department are being accused of abusing workers' compensation.

Time made on firefighters' claims has quadrupled from one year to the next,and local councillors think they know why.

They say the increase in time off for injuries started after the employees bought private insurance that gives them about $500 a week on top of the amount they would get from the Workers' Compensation Commission.

"Firemen are probably the fittest employees that we got. So there is clearly something wrong here," said St. John's Mayor Andy Wells at a city council meeting Monday.

Wells said he can only draw one conclusion.

"The indication here is that we do have abuse, and it's just as well to call a spade a spade."

However, Chuck Nurse, president of the union that represents firefighters in the St. John's region, disagrees.

"I would have no reason to believe that they're abusing their privileges under the Workers' compensation commission," he said.

Last year,St. John's regional fire department employees were off work because of injuries for a total of fewer than 600 hours.

So far this year that number has more than quadrupled to a total of 2,500 hours.

After a report by the regional fire services committee at Monday's council meeting, councillors approved a proposal to hire a nurse to help fire department employees get back to work more quickly.