Memphis firefighters face increased resignation amid pension reform

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) – More and more firefighters are hanging up their hats and leaving the Memphis Fire Department after cuts to their health care and pension plans.

Fire Union President Thomas Malone says 130 people left the fire department in 2014. Of those 130, 80 retired and 50 quit or resigned.

“They’re so fragile now that any time they hear of cuts they expect it to hit them,” said Malone. “We’re losing the best of the best.”

The majority of those firefighters that quit or resigned left to work for another city’s fire department.

Malone says each of those firefighters is worth about $300,000 in training– training that’s now going to other departments.

“That’s tax payer dollars that’s walking out the door,” said Malone. “That’s tax payer dollars that’s gonna have to pay for the replacement.”

This information comes as Memphis Police Association President Mike Williams says close to 200 Memphis police officers resigned in 2014.

“People are leaving because they’re tried of going through this maze with the city,” said Williams.

The city council voted in favor of a Hybrid Pension Plan that “grandfathers in” employees with 7.5 years of service or more.

But Malone says the issues are deeper than that plan and could eventually impact service.

“Our service level here is extremely high and people expect it,” Malone explained. “And when it goes away, all hell’s gonna break loose from the public.”

He says the department is highly qualified, which is one reason why as many as five other cities have been actively recruiting Memphis firefighters.

“Now they’re saying, ‘Let me get some of that while it’s hot,'” Malone added.

Thomas says he expects several more firefighters to resign in the first quarter because a large city is recruiting from Memphis.