Wage issue upsets part-time firefighters
Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 4, 2001
On March 5, the Austin City Council approved a resolution raising the part-time firefighters’ hourly wage rates and hourly training time rates from $9.
Wednesday, April 04, 2001
On March 5, the Austin City Council approved a resolution raising the part-time firefighters’ hourly wage rates and hourly training time rates from $9.50 to $12.50. Earlier that night, the finance committee approved a March 5 effective date for the increase. During the council meeting, the March 5 effective date was approved. The part-time firefighters had asked for a Jan. 1 effective date and that has caused a problem.
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Originally, the part-time firefighters had asked for an increase from $9.50 per hour to $14.25 per hour for training time only, leaving the hourly wage rate at $9.50. When that was not approved, they asked for both rates to be increased to $12.50 with the Jan. 1 date.
The finance committee and council approvals sat poorly with the part-time firefighters, and they took the issue to the fire committee on Monday. The Jan. 1 effective date would cost about $1,000 more in retroactive wages and training expenses than if the effective date were to be retroactive to March 5.
"Frankly, I would like it to stand as we put it," First Ward Councilwoman Mickey Jorgenson said. Fire committee chairwoman Jeanne Poppe and First Ward Councilman Wayne Goodnature agreed and voted to keep the effective date as is.
"It is a disappointment to us," James Lunt, president of the part-time firefighters relief association, said of the fire committee’s decision to keep the effective date as is.
After the meeting, Terry Hughes, spokesman for the part-time relief association, said minutes of the committee meetings that included the discussion about the wage changes contained errors, and those errors, coupled with the vote of the fire committee on Monday to back the effective date chosen by the council, impacted his ability to trust members of the committee.
The fire committee minutes of Feb. 22 state the fire committee recommended a Jan. 1 effective date to the council. That recommendation was made to the finance committee, but the finance committee changed the effective date to March 5 (the night it was approved) and passed their recommendation on to the council that night, where it was approved.
The rate increases are separate from vesting and pension amounts, which will be addressed in the part-time firefighters association by-laws and are yet to be approved.
Harry Brull, a consultant from Personnel Decisions International, initially will be interviewing firefighters on Monday and Tuesday next week, and perhaps more days if needed. Brull was called in by the fire committee and the council as a neutral outside source to get to the heart of the personnel and communication issues within the Austin Fire Department.