Ten years after the city’s income tax revenues plunged due to a national recession, city revenues are bubbling back up, and city council seems to be in a generous mood.
In April, the Toledo Police Patrolman’s Association union negotiated wage increases totalling 7 percent over three years.
And last week, Toledo Firefighters Local 92 got the same wage increase, as did Local 2058 of AFSCME (American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees).
Those city employee groups will see wages rise by 1.5 percent, 2.5 percent, and 3 percent this year and in the next two years.
The firefighters now will have received 14.75 percent in wage increases over the nine-year period starting in 2012. The base pay for a firefighter with five years on the job rises from $60,744 in 2017 to $65,092 as of January, 2020. The new contract also creates two new major holidays — Veterans Day and Easter.
Some on council justified this raise by the “strain” created by firefighters having to respond to a rising tide of medical calls instead of fire calls.
This is the firefighters’ job. The strain here is to explain a generous wage increase that may be out of sync with the wage increases earned by other people not working for local governments and whose unions don’t have political influence on the employer.
A report by Policy Matters Ohio called “State of Working Ohio” states that wages are stagnant in Ohio. The median wage in Ohio rose just 4 cents in 2017 to $17.79 per hour. One wonders what the median wage increase would have been if all the municipal, county, school board, and state government employees were excluded from the calculations.
The city of Toledo was forced to make painful cuts in services and compensation of its employees after the 2008 recession. In negotiations, the firefighters gave up the 10-percent pension giveback that had been paid by the city in the past. The lessons from that difficult era should not be forgotten.
It should also be remembered that voters expect the mayor and council members to be concerned with the circumstances and resources of the whole population, not just the employees whose unions have influence at election time.
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