“The women and men of the Atlanta Fire Rescue Department put their lives on the line on behalf of Atlanta residents,” Dickens said in a statement. “As Mayor I want to make sure they are fully supported.”
On Monday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a story about staffing shortages in the fire department. In it, firefighter union leaders and councilmembers were critical of the raises proposed in the mayor’s budget.
The mayor’s original proposal would have provided lower pay increases than suggested in a 2019 pay study for the majority of firefighters while giving bigger raises than suggested in the study to higher ranking firefighters.
“They are let down and confused, honestly,” firefighter union president Nate Bailey told the AJC for Monday’s story.
Bailey said in a letter to the mayor’s office released Thursday that the union appreciates the newly announced raises. Dickens office said the raises in his proposed budget will stay in place.
“This investment will exceed any other single year raise in our history for the rank of firefighter,” Bailey said in the letter. “The investment you and your administration are making will equal more than the last 3 years combined.”
The department now has about 800 sworn employees, and 150 vacancies.
The implications of being under-staffed are wide-ranging and include prolonged response times, fewer firefighters on engine or ladder trucks, and more firefighters working overtime.
In just the first three months of this year, 82 people left the department: 48 resigned, 22 retired and 12 were fired, according to a presentation given to the City Council. Retirements and resignations have increased since late 2020, according to an AJC analysis of department data.
Dickens and his Administration worked with union leadership on the new raises.
The mayor also announced a citywide pay study for all departments in the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. And the mayor’s office said it is in continuing discussions with Atlanta Police Department about additional financial support, which it says would help APD with recruitment and retention.