Alexandria first responders double down on push for more pay

Alexandria, Virginia, firefighter and police unions say the city is acting in bad faith when it used outdated numbers this week to justify a pay raise of 1.5%.

First responders asked for a 10% boost to put them on par with surrounding cities who are using bigger salaries to lure Alexandria’s first responders away.

They also want to use the larger increase for recruitment to fill vacant spots that are causing longer working hours for staffers, said Josh Turner, president of the firefighters’ IAFF Local 2141.

“It’s just plain not being honest with numbers,” said Marcus Downey, vice president of police union IUPA Local 5. “If I used two-year-old crime stats, I’d get fired.”

City of Alexandria spokesperson Kelly Gilfillen told WTOP that City Manager Mark Jinks proposed the 1.5% salary increase in good faith. She said the pay charts shown in the proposal were intended to show city employee pay status before the pandemic “to justify the recommendations and stated that the reports were outdated.”

Gilfillen said the city manager’s proposal also included a $1,000 bonus as a thank you to city employees who had worked through the pandemic.

This is the latest in a heated monthslong negotiation to get more pay to first responders.

Turner said the departments’ morale is taking a hit. And, he fears with the deep shortages of firefighters and police officer, residents may be affected soon.

“We care about the community we serve,” Turner said. “Our staffing issue is so bad that we’re starting to cut services, and the capabilities are different. We can’t keep playing this game.”

In August and September, the unions each sent letters to city leaders asking for a boost in pay and more hires.

Gigi Barnett

Gigi Barnett is an anchor at WTOP. She has worked in the media for more than 20 years. Before joining WTOP, she was an anchor at WJZ-TV in Baltimore, KXAN-TV in Austin, Texas, and a staff reporter at The Miami Herald. She’s a Navy wife and mom of three.

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