February 16, 2009
Firefighters pay raise out of line with reality
We certainly wouldn’t want to deny our firefighters their due, but a 7.55 percent pay increase couldn’t come at a worse time for Eastside Fire & Rescue. That exorbitant pay increase will go through, in accord with their union contract, but at the expense of operations and maintenance. EFR has already implemented an administrative hiring freeze and trimmed other expenses to meet the demands of the localities it serves, all of which are caught in the economic downturn as tax revenues slide. An unexpected $240,000 in additional labor expense will certainly only put off needed equipment and building maintenance — and more.
The pay increase is determined by a cost-of-living adjustment factor that is taken at a snapshot moment in time. That time was June 2008, just when fuel prices were over $4 per gallon and food and other consumer goods reflected that abnormal spike.
It isn’t as if the firefighters have lagged behind. Their contract allows for the annual adjustment to keep the EFR crew in line with wages of other area firefighters. That is important as EFR has competed to recruit the best of the best. But the pay policy has meant that the lowest ranked firefighter has had a 28 percent increase in pay since 2003 and the top echelon battalion chiefs have seen a 31 percent increase.
We are glad to know that city representatives on the EFR board have raised concerns. It leaves us feeling confident that the one-month glimpse of cost-of-living adjustments will be addressed when labor contracts come up for negotiation.