City raises exclude police, firefighters

ATLANTA — On Monday, the city of Atlanta approved raises for more than 3,000 city workers. But firefighters, police and jail guards are specifically excluded — and they are not happy about it.

“Atlanta has shown that it’s politics over people,” said Stephen Borders, who heads the Atlanta Professional Firefighters Union. Borders says the wage freeze and other issues will drive Atlanta firefighters to find jobs elsewhere.

Police and firefighters aren’t getting raises because of a lingering lawsuit between their unions and the city — that the mayor says basically disqualifies their members from the raise.

“It would be ignorant to provide raises to a group of people who are suing us,” Mayor Kasim Reed said Tuesday.

In 2013, Atlanta’s fire and police unions sued to challenge Mayor Reed’s reform of the city’s pension system. At that time, Reed said the pension system threatened to bankrupt the city. As long as that suit is active, Reed says sworn police and firefighters won’t get raises.

“What I’m saying is, if you want to have a conversation about pay, withdraw your lawsuit and I’ll meet you in the morning,” Reed said the decision was not punitive. “It’s fair to say that it’s smart. Because it would be bad business to provide pay raises” for employees who could win a judgment against the city, Reed said.

Borders says if the mayor wants new union leadership, he may get it “because we’re continuing to lose people and I myself am looking at other opportunities.”

Reed says it is possible that members of those unions could still get raises without changing their position on the pension lawsuit. But he says it would have to be under the next mayor who takes office in 2018.