Equal Pay

Should on-call members of the Chester Fire Department be the only Town employees left out of a 50 cent per hour pay raise?
Whether the 50-cent raise for any employee is appropriate is not the issue. It’s a done deal, approved by the Board of Selectmen. The only question out there is why firefighters were not included.
In the past, raises were handled differently by the selectmen, usually by designating a percentage increase and being specific about which employees would get the boost, often leaving that to the department head.
But when the selectmen approved giving the 50 cent raise to all employees, a worksheet prepared by Selectman Joe Castricone, liaison to the fire department, left off the firefighters. He said last week that he didn’t include them because he thought the selectmen didn’t decide on their raises.
Selectman chair Steph Landau said he looks at the firefighters as serving their community, much as he looks at himself as doing so in carrying out his selectman duties, in spite of the $2,500 stipend he receives.
Certainly on-call firefighters are often regarded as volunteers, but people should be able to distinguish between an on-call firefighter and everyone else. Firefighters are highly trained – their lives, and sometimes ours, depend on that. Your average Joe or Jane doesn’t know how to respond to a fire or a serious car accident, and most would not want to. Your average Joe or Jane doesn’t know about protective gear, incident management, use of specific tools – whether it’s a hose or a Jaws of Life, when and how to enter a burning building and when to realize you have to stay outside.
Remember, these are the people who go into burning buildings, sometimes facing the horrible task of retrieving the dead, and who work to rescue people from the car crashes the rest of us only stare at.
Indeed, their “volunteer” work truly can be a matter of life and death. With no intention to disparage anyone else, that’s not often the case with other “volunteers.”
And outside of the police, it’s not the case for other town employees either.
Sure, many firefighters do what they do because it’s a “calling” and they want to serve their community. That’s why it’s often called the fire service. But that doesn’t mean firefighters don’t deserve or expect to get paid for what they do, just like anyone – and in Chester, everyone – else.
For a grand total of $2,200, the on-call firefighters can get their raise. That’s $200 more than the town pays one selectman to do his job, or $300 less than the selectman chair gets. Sounds like a no-brainer. Any volunteers?

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