Metro Atlanta fire department in ‘hot seat’ over claims of unfair pay

Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Marietta Fire Department and city council are in the ‘hot seat,’ according to firefighters who demand oversight on a new pay scale. City personnel claims the new scale offers little salary equity among the ranks.

“I worked at the fire department putting my life on the line, putting my future health on the line with all the chemicals we get exposed to as a firefighter,” paused Ron Presley. “And I finished my career making $18.40 an hour, that just seems a little low.”

For 20 years in Marietta, Presley fought fires. But after retiring this March, he says there’s still one more to put out.

“This new pay study,” he said.

Although no longer a city employee, he along with other retired staff told CBS46, and also said in Wednesday night’s council meeting, that they’re standing in the gap for current firefighters afraid of retaliation.

“There is no explanation of how the salaries are calculated. There’s no objective formula or chart or spreadsheet,” a retiree claimed during the public comment portion.

Another said, “We sit up here and talk and talk and talk about public safety getting paid adequately.” Adding, “you want the best, pay for the best.”

Retirees like Presley allege due to hiring incentives and recent pay bumps, new hires end up making more than senior suppression personnel.

Current employees claim because there is no pay scale oversight, there is no equity in pay ranking.

“Say this guy has been here 10 years and this guy has been here for 5 years, the 10-year guy should make more if everything is equal as far as their training certifications, and that’s just not happening,” alleged Presley.

CBS46 talked to several other current firefighters who wished to remain anonymous, they echoed Presley’s comments. But the city disagrees.

A city spokesperson sent us the following statement:

“City Staff brought a pay study to City Council this year which was approved this spring and went into effect May 1st. These changes to our employees’ compensation, which totaled $2.1 million, are the largest salary increases in the City in the last 20 years. Take home pay for City employees is, on average, higher than other local governments in the metro area. Over the last 24 months, certified fire personnel have received an average 12% pay increase. Included in this 12%, is an average 6% increase they received two months ago, on May 1st.

The salary study was conducted by outside consultants. The City took the recommendations from the consultants and added another 3% increase to all eligible city employees. As of May 1st, starting pay for our Fire and Police departments increased over 9%, thus employees received a higher increase than the consultant recommended. Additionally, a separate pay plan was put into place for Public Safety in May which definitively shows starting salaries for each grade. However, the City has utilized pay plans with pay grades for over 30 years.”

As far as claims of any additional pay raises, the city spokesperson added:

“Our firefighters receive incentive pay for additional qualifications, training, and certifications. An example of this would be a firefighter who is a certified paramedic receiving an increase in their salary for the paramedic certification. Adding to that, the City will pay for their certification as well, thus we pay for their training and then fund a higher salary once the certification is received. All firefighters are eligible to participate in the incentive program. Those firefighters who decline to participate do not receive the additional incentive pay increases on top of the annual increase given over the last 10 years.”

Meanwhile, CBS46 called multiple city council members who did not agree to an interview but said they are looking into the numbers and will talk with the city’s legal department.

Current firefighters say they will be at the next city council meeting seeking action.