Bethany Firefighters' Raise Comes With Strings Attached

Sunday, December 15th 2013, 10:51 pm
By: News 9

Firefighters in Bethany will get a pay raise, but it comes at a price: One firefighter has to lose his job.

There are 22 firefighters on staff in Bethany, who all were expected to receive a pay raise. But plans changed, and one firefighter got the bad news he would be let go just moments before the station's holiday party. However, the city says the group knew beforehand staff could be cut.

Bethany firefighters boast being one of the busiest fire departments in the metro, responding to nearly 3,000 calls a year. The firefighters union, the International Association of Firefighters Local 2085, asked the City of Bethany for an 8-percent pay increase, and they got it, but with strings attached.

"The arbitrator ruled in our favor, and found there was more than enough money for all firefighters to get an 8-percent raise," said Brian Murray, Local 2085 Union president. "And then after we got the award, the city elected to fire one of our firefighters due to budgetary reasons."

The firefighter on the outs is rookie Josh Morgan, who was told he'd be losing his job just shy of his one-year anniversary with Bethany Fire on Jan. 7.

"It's very discouraging," Morgan said.

He says he's in shock since he just bought a house, has three kids and has another one on the way.

"Just knowing that I almost have my rookie year completed, and you know I might not get to fulfil that, I always wanted to become a fireman, and I'm here now. I don't want to go anywhere. So just hearing that news is devastating," Morgan said.

"Losing my job in just a couple weeks, that's pretty stressful. Also losing my insurance and I got a pregnant wife."

Bethany Mayor Bryan Taylor emailed the following statement:

"It is unfortunate that in these most uncertain times, with many people seeking job stability with benefits, that the Bethany Fire Department would not accept the same 4-percent raise all other city employees did. Instead, they held out for an 8-percent raise, took it to arbitration and won. Though they had been told the only way to achieve that would be to pay fewer people."

"We all have to live within a budget, personally or as an organization, and the City of Bethany has a good history of living within its means. All employees received or were offered a 4-percent pay increase, keeping long-term viability in mind. How to pay for this year's down the road are things which an arbitrator does not take into account."

"The City of Bethany would like to be able to consider pay raises for all its employees in future years, and continued increases over and above the budgeted amount would impact that ability as we continue to improve our infrastructure and provide the best possible services to all Bethany citizens."

Murray said the union has filed a grievance with the city of Bethany to fight the decision.

"Ultimately, we're going to fight as hard as we can to keep his job and do what we can to change their minds," Murray said.

The Union says Bethany is at the bottom when it comes to pay for metro fire departments. The average pay for a firefighter in Bethany is $16.54 an hour, compared to $30.87 in Oklahoma City, $24.10 in Edmond, $22.25 in Midwest City, $21.59 in Nichols Hills and $19.89 in Warr Acres.

The firefighter expected to lose his job said his last day will be the first week of January.