Firefighter Union President Says Many Firefighters Remain Below Federal Poverty Hourly Pay Rate

Chattanooga Fire Fighters Association President Jack Thompson said city officials plan to raise all city employees to above the federal poverty rate, but it will not apply to firefighters. He said firefighters start out at $10.54 an hour and do not reach the hourly poverty rate for eight years. 

Mr. Thompson said, “The City of Chattanooga administrators have been publicizing for the last few months that “ALL” Chattanooga City Employees currently receive more than $12.38 per hour, which is NOT true. The Federal Poverty Rate, which the City repeatedly cites, is listed as $12.60 per hour. Their current plan is to raise all City Employees’ starting salary to at least that $12.60 per hour rate… EXCEPT for the Firefighters of the Chattanooga Fire Department.

“Their justification for not raising the Fire Department’s starting salary to at least the Federal Poverty Rate, is that the members of the Chattanooga Fire Department are not eligible for this increase due to our work schedule and that these calculations can not apply to us. The average City of Chattanooga Employee works a 40 hour work week for approximately 2,080 hours per year. The Chattanooga Firefighter works a set 3,120 hours per year. This amounts to Firefighters working over 1,000 hours per year more than ANY other city employee and those additional hours are NOT eligible for overtime pay. In other words, they claim that because the Chattanooga Firefighters work more hours, they should be paid less for each of those hours. The City’s attempt to claim that this ‘simple math’ is irrelevant; is utterly disingenuous.

“At this time, the starting salary for a state certified Chattanooga Firefighter is only $10.54 per hour. A Chattanooga Firefighter does not reach that $12.60 per hour mark until after eight years of employment… eight years to reach the proposed starting salary of every other city employee, which is still their acknowledged Federal Poverty Rate. These Firefighters must also be trained in hazardous materials, numerous rescue disciplines and be certified Emergency Medical Technicians. 

“There are currently more than 100 Chattanooga Firefighters that are below the City’s new proposed starting wage, and the City administrators have stated that there are no plans to raise them above that level. The substantially low pay rate compared to other Fire Departments in our region is resulting in an exodus of certified Firefighters and causing staffing levels at the Chattanooga Fire Department to reach dangerously low rates, both for working Firefighters on scene and the Citizens that they have sworn to serve.”

The city has yet to respond to repeated attempts to discuss this issue.

From www.chattanoogan.com