Raleigh police, firefighters want bigger raise

ccampbell@newsobserver.comJune 15, 2013 

— City employees here are set to get their biggest raise in years under next year’s proposed budget, but many say the 3 percent pay hike isn’t enough.

Organizations representing Raleigh’s police officers, firefighters and sanitation workers have been lobbying the city council to increase the proposed raise to 5 percent. Leaders of the groups made their case at a recent budget hearing, and many rank-and-file workers are writing to the council asking for better pay amid rising health-care costs.

“This (3 percent raise) is a step in the right direction, but we feel like this is really just a half step,” said Keith Wilder, president of the Raleigh Professional Fire Fighters Association. “Employees are taking home less money today than they were in 2008.”

A 5 percent hike, he said, “is a reasonable step toward restoring the buying power we had back in 2008.”

Since the public hearing, the city council hasn’t discussed increasing the raise proposed by City Manager Russell Allen. A vote to approve his proposal could come as early as Monday.

The budget would give all workers a 3 percent merit pay increase depending on their annual performance reviews. That’s projected to cost the city $5.9 million; workers’ groups want the extra 2 percent to be a cost-of-living raise given to all, which would cost the city millions more.

Allen’s proposal is a big increase from last year’s $1,000 merit raise, and the year before city workers got a $500 one-time bonus in an effort to save money in the recession.

Police officers say their pay has fallen far behind peer cities, and they deserve more for the risky work of keeping Raleigh safe.

“If you were able to see what I see every day, you would be looking into doubling our salaries, not a raise,” Sgt. Wendy Bennett wrote in an email to the council. “Show us that we are appreciated. That what we do does not go unnoticed. That we work long hard hours and our city wants to reward us even if it is a small 5 percent.”

Sanitation workers say they also deserve more for doing the city’s dirtiest job. “We are your environmental protectors,” employee James Brooker III told the council. “We do work with blood, sweat and tears. ... Are we appreciated or not?”

The city council’s next budget discussion is scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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