OCEAN CITY – After the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) announced last week it would follow the town of Ocean City’s lead and freeze employee salaries, the Fire and EMS divisions weren’t far behind in making a similar announcement.
In efforts to be on the same page, and work as part of a unified team, FOP President Glen McIntyre said that the decision was not a direct result of the town’s decision to freeze employee salaries last week.
“We had been discussing it seriously for three to four weeks but we started conversations on this matter when the downturn in the economy began,” said McIntyre. “We are in this together, and we thought that this was the right thing to do.”
From a financial standpoint, freezing town employee salaries and halting the annual 3 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) will save the town upwards of $589,000, according to City Manager Dennis Dare.
Dare also said in the same breath when he announced the savings several weeks ago, that if the FOP came on board and took a similar step, the town could see an additional $225,000 in savings.
Still, McIntyre said that the decision was as much to send the right message to the public as it was to save some money.
“It’s not like we were trying to just hit a certain figure,” said McIntyre, “but, we promised the citizens when we signed our collective bargaining agreement that we would do what was right if the town ever got in a pinch, and that’s where we are.”
After the FOP’s announcement early this week it would not only freeze their salaries and forgo their COLAs but they would also concede merit increases and shift differential pay, the Career Fire Fighter Paramedics Association was projected to follow suit as well, which it did Wednesday night at a special meeting.
According to Lt. Thomas Kane, the majority of the Career Firefighter membership felt that it was the right thing to do, but stressed that the only push to vote accordingly was a moral one.
“We felt no pressure to do it, but we are all part of the same team, and from our youngest member to our most senior member, everyone was in agreement that this should be done,” said Kane.
McIntyre, on the other hand, mentioned that this decision essentially forgoes the three biggest ticket items in the FOP’s collective bargaining agreement, and he said that the decision will most likely impact the younger officers the most.
“A lot of our young guys will take this on the chin, but I have to commend them for how well they are taking it,” said McIntyre. “This decision stalls the forward progress in their careers and could cost anywhere from $1,000-$5,000 in salary, depending on the officer.”
McIntyre explained the shift differential as like a type of overtime or “time and a half” and described that some officers, perhaps while working the 10 p.m.-8 a.m. shift for instance, get an additional 75 cents per hour. Those little perks, as well as any ability to move forward in career or salary are at least for now, a thing of the past.
Earlier in the week, noth McIntyre and Dare correctly predicted that the fire and EMS division would follow suit, and hinted that they would have been shocked if they had not.
“It was a very clear decision for us, and we think it’s a win-win for both sides of this,” said McIntyre. “It’s a definite good faith effort on everyone’s part to try and get through these tough financial times.”
Both Kane and McIntyre said that morale is “very good” despite the salary freeze, hinting that some might have even been expecting it.
“This unfolded slowly as we talked to council members and the city manager and the Mayor, and this is where we thought, we might be heading, said McIntyre.