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NC firefighters angry at sudden benefit cuts

The Raleigh Fire Department said the city cut vacation time, holiday pay and made sick day rules stricter

By FireRescue1 Staff

RALEIGH, N.C. — Raleigh firefighters claim they were the last to find out about major cuts to their benefits due to city policy.

ABC11 reported that the City of Raleigh approved a firefighter pay raise, but cut their vacation time, laid out stricter rules on sick days and cut their holiday pay.

"It seems like it was done in a backroom deal," firefighter Nicholas Rhodes said. "It was a low blow to us when we found out about it. It was a kick in the teeth, and there are a lot of us who are frustrated and angry and want some answers and explanation."

Rhodes, a 15-year veteran of the department, said vacation time is essential to the firefighters because of their long hours.

"We work 24-hour shifts," Rhodes said. "A lot of us leave work and go back to work at part-time jobs or side businesses. Vacation time and time off - that's important to us and more so to our families."

The new vacation policy says that firefighters get one 12-hour vacation day for every month they work. Since the firefighters work 24-hour shifts, taking a full day off would require them to use two vacation days.

"This is not what we signed up for," Rhodes said.

The firefighters said the way the vote was conducted added to the confusion and controversy of the decision. The proposal was filed under “Consent Agenda” for the council’s meeting. The City of Raleigh’s website says that consent agenda issues are "considered to be routine and may be enacted by one motion."

Council member David Cox said he and the other members thought they were voting for the pay raise proposal instead of the benefit cuts. He was embarrassed by his “yes” vote, so he spent the weekend apologizing to fire stations in person.

"I certainly want to roll back the damage that was done," Cox said. "I come from a blue collar family. There was no way I was ever going to support taking benefits away from our first responders."

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