SALISBURY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Firefighters in Salisbury say poor pay is causing much experienced personnel to leave the department.
On Tuesday, the Salisbury Professional Firefighters Local 2370 were scheduled to ask the city council for more compensation. Council members voted 4-1 to remove their presentation from the agenda.
Councilman Brian Miller said he made the motion to remove the union’s presentation from the agenda because he did not believe they had gone through the proper chain of command in asking for raises.
“If we set the precedent that anybody who has a grievance can come directly to the city council and air that grievance, it’s a bad policy,” said Miller at Tuesday’s meeting.
Meanwhile, Union Member and Salisbury Firefighter Ethan Chirico says the Salisbury Professional Firefighters originally went to their fire chief and the city manager before taking their request to city council.
“The biggest issue is that the public safety is in danger because we are losing experienced people. And then we have to be short-staffed. And we’re overworking our people who are here,” said Chirico.
In their letter, the Salisbury Professional Firefighters argued that their Class 1 ISO rating ranks them among the top 1% of fire departments in the county, yet they’re paid less than any other surrounding agency, including smaller municipalities. Currently, the base salary at the Salisbury Fire Department is $31,042.
“As a three-year firefighter, I’m making just under $34,000 now. I’ve barely gotten a $3,000 raise in over three years,” said Chirico.
Chirico says the Salisbury Fire Department’s base workload is 56 hours per week. With pay totaling around $11.26 an hour, many firefighters choose to get part-time jobs at other departments to earn more money.
Chirico says he is one of the only Salisbury firefighters who can afford to actually live in Salisbury.
“Other guys work two other part-time fire departments to make up for the lack of pay and to bolster and be able to pay for their families,” he said.
Salisbury Professional Firefighters say the poor pay is causing many veteran firefighters to leave the department. Currently, Chirico says they have the bare minimum staffing to fill every shift. If someone calls out sick or requests time off, he says another firefighter must work a double shift, meaning they are on the clock for 48 hours straight.
Chirico says one of his best friends in the department is leaving Friday.
“A 10-year veteran, an expert firefighter, is leaving the department. It’s his last shift. And we can’t make that up tomorrow. We can hire a recruit the next day. It’s 10 more years until he’s up to that benefit,” he said.