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DC Fire union says they were excluded from holiday pay

Officials say the Christmas Eve benefit wasn't intended for responders because they are already paid more than other city workers

By Russ Ptacek

WASHINGTON, D.C. — D.C. police and firefighters are upset that Mayor Vincent Gray closed offices for Christmas Eve and ordered special pay for city employees who are required to work, but didn't include them.

The unions are portraying the mayor as a Grinch, while the mayor's office says their compensation is already fair.

"Apparently we have been exempted from the holiday," said D.C. Firefighter Union President Ed Smith in an e-mail to WUSA9. "My membership wants to know why?" Except for the holiday wreaths and jingle bells attached to the grills of District fire trucks, emergency workers continued their normal routines while the unions battled city hall.

Union leaders say the holiday pay disparity is unfair.

"The mayor said this was for all employees," said DC Police Union Chairman Kristopher Baumann about the Christmas Eve compensation. "What we should have realized was given his history was that really meant it was (for) publicity."

The mayor announced the Christmas Eve closings and compensation last week.

"Patently absurd...half truths," was the reaction from DC Mayor Gray's spokesman Pedro Ribeiro.

Ribeiro said the Christmas Eve benefit wasn't intended for emergency workers because they are already higher paid than most city workers and negotiate benefits through a contract.

Union leaders pointed out police and fire have been working without contracts for five years.

"Under administrative closings, they don't get paid in their contracts," Ribeiro said.

"This didn't have anything to do with any contracts," Baumann said. "This is a mayor's order, meaning he's doing this by statute."

The mayor's spokesman countered emergency workers qualify for many other benefits unavailable to other city workers.

"This is just another hit to the fire fighters morale," Smith said.

Ribeiro said criticism came as a surprise, because he believes the Gray administration has shown good faith in working towards successful contract negotiations with police and fire fighters.

Not so, says the police union.

"Mayor Gray has repeatedly misrepresented to the media the status of police negotiations and mischaracterized the position of the District in those negotiations in an effort to mislead the public," the union said in a news release.

Republished with permission from WUSA9

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