Employees of Metro Nashville government rallied in front of the Metro Courthouse Tuesday night, as city council members prepared to hear public comments on their proposed pay raises.
The group of roughly 100 police, fire, and service union members and supporters gathered to cheer the efforts to get Metro employees more pay, following years of budget cuts and layoffs.
“They heard it. They let us know they hear it. And they said, 'We're going to take care of you guys,'” said Mark Young, President of the International Association of Firefighters Local 140.
On Monday, the Civil Service Commission approved a pay plan put forth by Mayor Karl Dean. The plan includes a 1.5% pay raise for all Metro employees and restores so-called increment raises.
Increments are scheduled annual pay increases based on seniority and acceptable job performance, but the 3% increases have been frozen for the last four years.
“They've been stuck where they are, and their 2009 dollars aren't going as far as they should in 2013,” said Sgt. Robert Weaver, President of the Nashville Chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.
In the mayor's initial budget recommendation submitted April 30, he called for only the 1.5% pay raise, to be implemented January 1, 2014. He's now recommending reinstating the increment raises as of July 1, 2013.
The bulk of the estimated $6 million for the increment raises will be funded by individual departments.
“We've been assured this doesn't mean any layoffs or furloughs,” Weaver said.
In a department letter, Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said, “We will have to institute cost saving measures to ensure that funds are available to implement these raises.”
Chief Anderson said those measures would most likely include “attrition and the delaying the filling of vacancies.”
The chief also said he fully supports the plan to get police department employees the money they have earned.
The plan is also supported by city workers not eligible for the increments.
“That's why we're a union. It's not one person looking out for themselves,” said Russ Anthony, a employee with Metro Social Services.
“The message that we want to get across is that we're moving in the right direction, but there is more that can be done to support the people that keep this city going,” he added.
Those gathered for the rally outside the courthouse moved into council chambers for the scheduled public hearing and second reading of the pay proposals as part of the overall budget for 2013-14.
Following the hearing, Metro Council members approved the budget on second reading. A third and final reading will be scheduled for the next council meeting.