Md. city unions for FFs, EMS, dispatchers disappointed by 5%+ raises after cops get 19%

The Annapolis agreements also include two $3,000 COVID-19 bonuses — one in July and one in 2023


Rebecca Ritzel
The Capital

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Unionized city of Annapolis workers, firefighters and paramedics will receive at least 5% raises under newly ratified contracts, salary bumps that some workers feel are too low given the higher raises coming next month for Annapolis police officers.

Agreements with the firefighters and two bargaining units from the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees include 5% cost-of-living increases, spread across two years, plus two $3,000 COVID-19 bonuses, one payable in July and one in 2023. Firefighters will receive an additional increase of about 1% in base pay.

Representatives for the firefighters and police dispatchers said they were disappointed in the negotiated pay raises, having watched police officers receive a 19% salary increase last month.

"People were pretty mad that we got so much less than the police," said Joe Pilat, president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 1926. He added, however, that he understands the police department is struggling to hire officers, while the firefighters and paramedics are fully staffed.

"No one in their right minds wants to be a cop right now," Pilat said.

Under the new agreements, the starting salary for firefighters and paramedics is around $47,000, while police officers start at $60,000.

Morial Hayes, an organizer for the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees union, said the city still has full-time workers making less than $44,985, which is the minimum living wage for a single worker with no dependents in Anne Arundel County, according to the Economic Policy Institute. The Washington think tank has calculated salaries needed to maintain a "modest yet adequate standard of living" in 3,142 American counties.

"People are struggling," Hayes said.

While the new contract "passed with flying colors," in the larger of the city's two union bargaining units, composed mostly of civilian administrative workers, Hayes said only 16 out of the 33 voting members from the union that includes police dispatchers cast a ballot on their contract.

"They were upset," Hayes said, of the members who declined to vote. "They felt it wasn't fair that the police received such a high increase."

The City Council also noted the discrepancy in raises. At an all-day budget meeting on Monday, council members mentioned many times that police will receive more than the 14% pay increase forecast in the original proposed budget.

"We have to face the facts: It's an increase without a revenue stream," said Rob Savidge, a Ward 7 Democrat. Savidge proposed raising taxes to offset the higher law enforcement costs. The measure was voted down 7-2, with only Alderman DaJuan Gay, a Democrat from Ward 6, joining him.

Instead of raising taxes, the city will pull money from its dwindling pool of American Rescue Plan Act funds, carrying less than $4 million into fiscal 2024.

Council members broke into cheers Monday evening when they heard firefighters ratified their contract rather than return to the bargaining table seeking additional raises.

In a statement, City Manager David Jarrell called the negotiations with all three unions "professional and productive."

"We appreciate the efforts and cooperation of our labor organizations through the process," he said.

All four agreements take effect July 1.

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(c)2022 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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