“Everyone is smashed down right here within the backside half of the pay vary,” Smith mentioned. “No person strikes up … You’ve received a 19-year man, he makes $55,000, and he’s not even on the midpoint.”
The AJC interviewed six present firefighters, all of whom requested anonymity for concern of retaliation. All agreed that low pay and the shortage of alternative for raises have left them annoyed, with some wanting elsewhere for work.
Milligan mentioned firefighters are under the midpoint wage as a result of the vary shifts up every time town approves market pay changes.
“The pay scale strikes, so the minimal, the beginning factors transfer,” Milligan mentioned. “And in order that then strikes all of the midpoints.”
However Smith mentioned the entire level of shifting the pay scale up is to maneuver the staff up with it, to allow them to advance to the mid and higher quartiles of the vary. Solely three folks within the division have been capable of attain the midpoint, based mostly on the August 2022 payroll information.
“He’s shifting the size, however he’s not shifting workers with the size,” Smith mentioned. “The present payroll continues to be filled with inequities … You continue to have six-year firefighters making greater than 19-year firefighters.”
In Milligan’s written response to the firefighter’s 90-page report, he mentioned these making extra money with fewer years of expertise took the steps to get extra certifications, together with paramedic and grasp firefighter standing.
However Smith and several other present firefighters mentioned they imagine tenure also needs to earn will increase in pay, even when it’s only a small yearly proportion.
‘How can I transfer up?’
In a step-in-grade pay system, workers are given established wage will increase as they spend extra years of their positions or advance in rank. Smith mentioned Marietta ought to undertake that kind of system to supply a extra goal path for development.
Milligan mentioned town has thought of it, however that system “doesn’t go together with the philosophy of town’s pay plan” and limits flexibility with promotions and raises.
“If we’ve received somebody that is available in and so they sort of put their head down and get to work, and so they select to advertise faster than others, we want to have the ability to acknowledge that,” he mentioned.
George McKeehan, a former assistant chief who labored on the Marietta Fireplace Division for 21 years, mentioned step-in-grade is well-liked at different hearth departments.
“Cobb County does a step-in-grade, and I haven’t heard any points out of that,” he mentioned. “They’re very, very pleased with it really.”
Underneath Cobb’s construction, firefighters on the lowest rank transfer incrementally based mostly on their time in service with a direct pathway for pay will increase as much as $70,000.
Whereas Marietta’s pay vary for the firefighter rank is comparable, with a $45,000 minimal as much as $70,000 most, the trail for development isn’t structured. Not one of the firefighters are on the most wage.
The town gave 3% market changes to all workers, on prime of the two.39% median wage improve because of the pay examine, which concluded that the brand new pay ranges are aggressive in right this moment’s market.
Milligan mentioned as soon as firefighters have achieved grasp firefighter and paramedic standing, the opposite choices to extend their pay embrace promotion or city-wide market changes.
“For many who select to remain in entry-level positions, their salaries might be moved by common market changes,” Milligan mentioned in his written response.
However Smith mentioned the price of dwelling and market changes aren’t raises; they’re “an adjustment to assist offset inflation,” and firefighters ought to have the ability to advance within the designated pay scale past these yearly changes.
“Some folks don’t want to be promoted,” Smith mentioned. “They wish to be a firefighter all through their 25-year profession, and there’s large worth in that. You want skilled firefighters.”
McKeehan agreed: “It’s within the folks’s greatest curiosity to have their firefighters specialise in one thing and have the folks that truly nonetheless experience the vehicles be superb at what they do,” he mentioned.
All the present firefighters interviewed for this story mentioned morale on the division has reached an all-time low.
Smith mentioned the division has misplaced over 30 firefighters within the final two years, and 9 of these people retired, in accordance with the chief.
In Milligan’s written response, he mentioned the division’s management “acknowledges that there was attrition over the previous few years,” and it has been “considerably impacted by unprecedented workforce developments.”
Milligan mentioned he has an open-door coverage, and firefighters are all the time welcome to specific their considerations.
“Let’s set it up,” he mentioned. “Let’s have the dialog. What can we do to repair it?”
However firefighters mentioned they’ve tried for years to speak with the fireplace chief about easy methods to improve their pay. Now, they’re afraid to talk out for concern of being passed over for promotion or denied different development alternatives sooner or later.
“When folks push for change, they’re focused, and that’s very tough to show,” Smith mentioned.
Though some have resigned, the division has had no hassle filling these positions and is at the moment filling the final two vacancies, Milligan mentioned.
However Smith mentioned a firefighter on payroll doesn’t equal a firefighter on obligation.
“In the event that they rent somebody, it’s going to take over 20 weeks for that particular person to undergo recruit faculty,” leaving firefighters to fill the hours with necessary additional time, Smith mentioned.
Present firefighters mentioned extreme additional time has brought on burnout and much more frustration.
“These are the women and men who’re going to return to your home in the midst of the evening, it doesn’t matter what the emergency is,” Smith mentioned. “They don’t wish to take into consideration cash. They shouldn’t should. They need to have the ability to simply do their jobs.”
Credit score: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com
Credit score: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com