Firefighter union says fix pay scale or waste tax payer money

Published: Jun. 15, 2021 at 7:47 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 15, 2021 at 8:00 PM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Representatives for Albany’s fire department said if the city doesn’t fix their pay scale, it’s just wasting taxpayer dollars.

Union members told WALB Investigates, that firefighters were given a choice between getting a city-wide raise or fixing issues with the department scale.

Most chose to correct the scale. The city is finalizing its budget next Tuesday. That means they have an opportunity to put taxpayer money toward fixing the pay scale or perpetuating an issue that’s been going on for decades.

The Albany Fire Department’s current pay scale allows subordinates to make more than their supervisors on a wide spectrum. Often, those supervisors have many more years of experience on the job.

Ronnie Pettiford is the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Albany Union.
Ronnie Pettiford is the President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Albany Union.(WALB)

“I have an issue that I make more than my superiors,” said Professional Firefighters of Albany Union president, Ronnie Pettiford. “That shouldn’t be the case. Those guys deserve to make more. They’ve been here longer, they have the education, They’ve taken the proper steps that were set forth for them to achieve these ranks and their positions.”

Union members said that also means there’s less incentive to go up for promotions.

They gave the council a potential solution, along with an example of another fire department that got it right.

“There are other municipalities in Georgia that have faced this issue and corrected it. We sent all of you city manager and the fire chief a copy of the pay scale Henry County uses. This is the type of pay scale that your firefighters want,” he said.

Union representative, James Gibney, told WALB News 10 that Henry County’s correction was done in phases, which helped with keeping costs down. He said a fix for Albany would cost roughly $600,000 - $700,000 of city funding.

Professional Fire Fighters of Albany Union representative James Gibney, led in creating a pay...
Professional Fire Fighters of Albany Union representative James Gibney, led in creating a pay scale proposal.(WALB)

“I did make a promise to them that I would advocate for them for fixing the subordinate supervisor problem,” said Interim City Manager Steven Carter.

Commissioner Demetrius Young asked Carter Tuesday to consider the union’s proposal and notify the council of its feasibility.

“They’re solution is a multipart solution. I’m offering them a one part at a time solution,” said Carter.

It would be a case-by-case fix to subordinate-supervisor inequities. But, Pettiford says that fix doesn’t address the underlying issue with the pay scale.

Still, he’s trying to remain hopeful.

“For me, the acknowledgment that we have an issue is a step in the right direction, but now, we have to do something about it,” he said.

Union members also said that pay problems are making department vacancy issues worse, and that’s a community safety issue.

WALB’s Gabrielle Ware reached out to Interim City Manager Steven Carter on how the city plans to address pay inequities. He provided a statement that says:

“Through the budget process, we are working on an overall pay plan that affects the entire city. Any pay modifications will be made through that process.”

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