Baltimore fire union upset about lack of pay raises

Baltimore fire union president Rick Hoffman blasted the city administration Tuesday for not giving firefighters the 2 percent raises all other city union employees will get, after months of staying silent on the issue amid ongoing arbitration.

Hoffman made note of the city's recent violent crime wave as evidence that firefighters deserve a raise, saying that members of the Fire Department, who also handle medical calls, are the ones who take shooting victims to the hospital and wash the blood off the street after the police leave.

"We're out there plugging holes in people, patching them up, taking them to the hospital, and how do we get thanked? We don't," Hoffman said. "My people come to work every damn day to protect this city and make this city better."

The city's proposal would require firefighters to work longer hours — 24 hours straight, every three days — but would boost their pay. The issue has been in arbitration as firefighters say the longer hours still amount to a pay cut and working such a long shift may be unsafe as fatigue sets in.

"Several viable proposals for significant pay raises were offered by the administration and rejected by the Union," Ryan O'Doherty, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, wrote in an email.

Though formal agreements have yet to be signed, most other city employees are expected to get the 2 percent raises starting this week. Hoffman said that this week firefighters will have to start contributing 1 percent more of their salaries to their pensions, resulting in a smaller paycheck, which he called unfair.

O'Doherty said any pay raise for firefighters resulting from arbitration would be retroactive.

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