TUCSON, AZ — When the city gave its employees a 2.5 percent raise this year, it included the fire department.
However, Tucson Fire Fighters Association President Josh Campbell tells News 4 Tucson that’s not enough.
“It’s very difficult to make a living here in Tucson when you’re working in an environment as dangerous as we are and we’re trying to raise families on a 2018 cost of living but we’re trying to do that on 2008 wages,” Campbell said.
Veteran firefighters are taking home the same paychecks as rookies.
“We have tenure firefighters and tenure captains making the same base rate of pay as a brand new firefighter or a newly hired captain today,” Campbell, a 21-year veteran of TFD said. “So after working a 24-hour shift instead of going home to decompress, they’re having to pick up overtime shifts.
The base yearly rate for Tucson firefighters is $45,834
City Councilman Steve Kozachik said the union met with the city manager about how to allocate that pay raise for TFD.
“They couldn’t figure out a better way to do it than what the city manager and mayor and council had approved,” Kozachik said. “And so that’s what we’re doing 2.5 percent.
Police officers in Tucson just got a 15 percent raise.
As staffing levels dip at TPD, officers can make lateral moves to other departments. That’s not the case for Tucson Fire.
“For firefighters if we want to leave the organization and go to another fire department that is offering better pay and more competitive wages, we have to start over, re-test, go through that academy and then start at that department’s bottom of the pay scale,” Campbell said. “There are no later moves for firefighters.”
“Firefighters do deserve pay increases,” Kozachik said. “We took care of the police department this year, we’ll look at what we can do with respect to fire next year. But, we’ve got a fixed budget. The money just doesn’t fall out of trees.”
Campbell and his colleagues argue it ultimately comes down to ensuring the health and safety of the men and women who answer a growing number of calls on a daily basis.
“They’re suffering, they’re struggling from a tremendous call volume and the lack of pay and the lack of time we have to rest between shifts,” Campbell said.