Should cal fire firefighters get a raise? new proposal says yes

Should cal fire firefighters get a raise? new proposal says yes

05 January 2017

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USA — State-employed firefighters, some of the lowest-compensated in their profession in California, are preparing to vote on a contract offer that would increase their base pay by 9.29 percent to 22.55 percent over four years.

The leadership of Local 2881, which represents about 6,000 current and retired Cal Fire employees, could bring the contract to the membership in late January. Several previous offers by the state were rejected by union leadership without a membership vote.

The contract would increase compensation for the job categories of Firefighter II at the bottom and Battalion Chief at the top. For instance, a Firefighter II currently making base pay of $3,872 monthly would make $4,483 in 2020 after a 17.45 percent pay raise over that span.

“Right now, it’s a tentative proposal,” said Battalion Chief Scott McLean, a spokesman for Cal Fire’s state office.

Local 2881 President Mike Lopez did not respond to messages sent Wednesday seeking comment.

Cal Fire, operating in the Inland Empire as the Riverside County Fire Department, provides firefighting and paramedic services to the county’s unincorporated areas as well as 21 cities and the Rubidoux Community Services District.

Cal Fire’s San Bernardino/Inyo/Mono Unit provides those services to Highland and Yucaipa.

Firefighters’ pay was such a point of contention that they protested at the Capitol in August.

In the days leading up to the rally, Mike Alvarado, a Temecula-based Cal Fire firefighter, told The Press-Enterprise, “I have never seen morale this low.”

Alvarado is married with three children and said he needed to work a handful of extra shifts each month to supplement his $2,500 monthly take-home pay.

Firefighters pointed to a salary survey conducted by the state in 2014 that showed Cal Fire total compensation lagged behind 20 other firefighting agencies by 29.7 percent to 39.9 percent, depending on the position, and that base pay for those same jobs lagged by an average of 86.5 percent to 91 percent.

How the pay raises will affect the cost for the Inland cities and counties who contract with Cal Fire is unclear. McLean, the Cal Fire spokesman, would not speculate.

Riverside County spokesman Ray Smith said the county “will have to review information (about the raises) and talk with Cal Fire in order to determine the effect on the county.”

The raises could pose a challenge to Riverside County’s efforts to rein in ongoing expenses, such as salary costs, which are outpacing the projected growth in future revenue.

The Board of Supervisors has committed to a five-year plan that calls for strict limits on new spending to build up reserves and put the county on a path to financial sustainability. As part of that, county officials have taken a hard line on raises with labor unions during ongoing collective bargaining talks.

Contact the writer: or 951-368-9569

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