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New Orleans

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  • New Orleans

    NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Firefighters here are planning a public
    relations campaign as they push a pay proposal union leaders see as
    key to helping boost morale and fill the department's reduced
    ranks.
    Union leaders plan to propose a 10 percent, across the board pay
    raise for all firefighters, which they see as more in-line with
    what Mayor Ray Nagin recently proposed for police officers. The
    mayor has proposed a pay raise for starting firefighters, but union
    head Nicholas Felton Jr. says that's inadequate.
    The issue is expected to come up Wednesday, when a civil service
    commission meets to consider the mayor's pay idea. The commission
    may approve or change the mayor's plan, before sending a
    recommendation to city council members, the city's deputy director
    of personnel said Tuesday.
    "We are in a crisis situation," Felton, president of the New
    Orleans Fire Fighters Association local 632, told a news conference
    in front of Fire Station 7, which is still unusable nearly a year
    after Hurricane Katrina hit. "Our fire department has ruptured, we
    have a breach in the wall, and we've got to act now."
    The city has fewer firefighters than it did before Katrina,
    leading to slower response times for available crews and creating
    safety concerns, both for firefighters and the public, Felton said.
    Finding and keeping firefighters is also a growing problem:
    First-year firefighters currently make about $8.24 an hour, Felton
    said, noting prospects could earn more working at a fast-food
    restaurant or in another city. The union claims that, under the
    current pay plan, it takes a firefighter about nine years to earn
    $10 an hour.
    According to information provided by the union, a New Orleans
    firefighter with a year on the job earns an annual base salary of
    $21,130. That's less than cities such as Wichita, Kan., Omaha,
    Neb., and Tulsa, Okla., according to the union data.
    E-mail messages for representatives of the mayor were not
    immediately returned.
    Tom Riddle, labor relations specialist for the state federation
    of the International Association of Fire Firefighters in Oklahoma,
    said the average entry-level base wage in that state is $23,000 a
    year to $25,000 a year. Recruitment, he said, hasn't been a
    problem, nor has turnover. Pay, benefits and hours are good, he
    said. Additionally, "you have public standing," he said.
    "They're America's heroes."
    The privately funded PR campaign planned for New Orleans, dubbed
    "Come Hell or High Water," is set to include at least one
    billboard, Felton said. He did not disclose the cost of the effort
    or who was involved.

    (Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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