W.Va. city holiday pay change affects members' income, morale, FFs say

Morgantown providers point out a lack of prorating has caused issues with paychecks, causing some to resign from the department


Ben Conley
The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — "Frustration is high, and morale is low."

That's how Morgantown Firefighter Anthony Stake opened his remarks to Morgantown City Council on Tuesday.

Stake, the secretary and treasurer of the International Association of Firefighters Local 313, was among a contingent of fire department representatives on hand to ask the council to look into how a change in holiday pay policy is impacting firefighters, as well as the perceived indifference coming from city hall.

As a captain and 17-year MFD employee, Gary Freshour said monitoring vacation and holiday usage is part of his duties.

He explained that because of the unique work rotation of firefighters, the entire upcoming year's worth of holiday shifts are scheduled in the previous winter, and, in some scenarios, firefighters have to take holidays nowhere near where they actually fall on the calendar.

"It's never been a problem until all the sudden, this year, somewhere, somehow, we aren't getting our holidays prorated and now we have had a guy take a holiday. He has done nothing wrong, he has followed the procedure ... and all of the sudden he gets shorted a paycheck, " Freshour said.

IAFF Local 313 President Mitchell Beall said attempts to clarify or remedy that situation have gone unanswered.

"It saddens me when a gentleman was shorted $277 on his paycheck a week ago and reached out; no response, and now that individual has turned in his two-week notice, " Beall said. "A paramedic that's provided service in this city and saved lives in this city."

Each of the firefighters said they believe the frustration extends beyond the fire department into the city's other departments.

"Benjamin Franklin stated, as Poor Richard, that 'To err is human. To repent is divine, but to persist is devilish, '" Freshour said. "If you correct the holiday issue, there's no harm, no foul. But if guys continue to get shorter paychecks than they deserve, then that's devilish."

Members of the council thanked the firefighters for bringing the issues forward.

"I think we need to work together as an entity on the holiday pay issues and other kinds of issues going forward, " Mayor Jenny Selin said, pointing out that council and city administration have taken steps to address various employee issues, including firefighter pensions and MFD facilities.

"It's not that anyone is trying to be disrespectful or harming, but rather, we're at a bumpy spot in the road and we need to sort it out, as you have identified."

In other city news, the council voted unanimously to rescind its resolution requiring masks for participants and attendees of public meetings.

Also on Tuesday, the council laid, or adopted, the city's levy rate, which will remain unchanged for the coming fiscal year.

Morgantown's levy rate is already the maximum allowable by the state, at 25 cents on every $100 of Class II (residential) property and 50 cents on every $100 of Class IV (commercial) property.

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(c)2022 The Dominion Post

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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