First-responder pay raise proposal draws mixed reaction

First-responder pay raise proposal draws mixed reaction

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ATLANTA -

The Atlanta City Council approved a plan on Monday that would increase pay among city employees, but not everyone is happy.

The proposed plan gives first-responders a 1 percent raise.  Classified employees – who make up about one-third of the city work force -- get a 3 percent raise.  All employees should get an additional 0.5 percent more in January.

"This is long overdue. This is something I think they've been waiting on. It's not quite where we want to go but it's getting us there," said Felicia Moore, the City Council's finance chair.

The head of the city's firefighter union, Stephen Borders, says it's not enough.

"The average firefighter, they're going up $400 a year. You divide that time 26 bi-weekly paychecks, it's not enough to buy one meal," Borders said.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed met with union leaders behind closed doors on Monday to try and reach an agreement on the pay raise. At the same time, wives and other supporters of the first-responders pounded the pavement outside City Hall with voices and signs held high in protest.

It's the first year that spouses have taken to the streets for weeks to protest the many years their husbands and wives have gone without a raise. Many carried signs with phrases like "Demand fair pay increase for Atlanta PD." Elsewhere, billboards carried similar messages. The bottom line: Stop putting first-responders last when it comes to compensation, they say.

The head of the group, Kelly Uhlis -- a police officer's wife -- said that she's happy with the result.

"I think it's a very positive move that the city and mayor are taking," Uhlis said.

Altogether, the city is spending around $3 million for the raises. But while putting the finishing touches on the budget, council added a last minute $2.3 million for Invest Atlanta for economic development work.

"I think that it's hypocritical and it makes us look bad in front of our employees when we tell them we don't have money, we don't have, then all of a sudden you can pull $2.3 million out of a hat with no discussion, no details," said  Moore.

Moore proposed an amendment late Monday that would increase public safety salaries by 3 percent. That measure failed, 10-4, by the Council.

The mayor said that while the raises were not large, they were a step in the right direction.

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