Salary scale a hot topic

Lack of ap­pli­cants for Fire De­part­ment bat­tal­ion chief posts raises alarm

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - FRONT PAGE - By NANCY COOK LAUER

The ca­reer lad­der reaches only so far for Hawaii County fire­fight­ers, at least if they don’t want to take a pay cut.

Con­cerns about a lack of in­ter­est from rank-and-file fire­fight­ers about ris­ing to the rank of bat­tal­ion chief have Fire Chief Dar­ren Rosario and Act­ing Hu­man Re­sources Di­rec­tor Bill Bril­hante meet­ing with Mayor Harry Kim, ask­ing for a clas­si­fi­ca­tion study to de­ter­mine whether the po­si­tion should be moved up a few rungs.

Rosario said Tues­day he sup­ports a move up on the salary scale for bat­tal­ion chiefs. That’s why he took it to the mayor, he said.

Bril­hante is more cau­tious and called for a study to jus­tify the changes. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure there’s suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence” for an up­ward move, he said, ac­knowl­edg­ing the bat­tal­ion chief level is “kind of the pinch point in the ad­vance­ment process.”

Bat­tal­ion chief is a man­age­rial po­si­tion one rank above cap­tain. Cap­tains and be­low are cov­ered by the Hawaii Fire Fight­ers As­so­ci­a­tion union, while the bat­tal­ion chief po­si­tion is ex­cluded from col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

Bat­tal­ion chiefs’ pay ranges from $81,672-$135,936, de­pend­ing on se­nior­ity and longevity of ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to 2017 salary charts main­tained by the state De­part­ment of Hu­man Re­sources. Cap­tains’ pay is

from $79,728-$109,140.

The fire chief makes $130,818 an­nu­ally, and two as­sis­tant chiefs each make $126,894.

Chief and as­sis­tant chief salar­ies are among those be­ing con­sid­ered by the county Salary Com­mis­sion at its meet­ings de­ter­min­ing whether to raise top salar­ies in all de­part­ments.

Four­teen cur­rent and re­tired Hawaii Fire De­part­ment bat­tal­ion chiefs sued the county in 2015, claim­ing their pay and ben­e­fits pack­ages have not kept pace with coun­ter­parts and sub­or­di­nates cov­ered by the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing agree­ment.

Bat­tal­ion chiefs were es­tab­lished as part of a de­part­ment re­or­ga­ni­za­tion in 2005. The law­suit said the pur­pose of the bat­tal­ion chief is “to co­or­di­nate the re­sponses of mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies of fire­fight­ers to emer­gen­cies and in­ci­dents that can­not be han­dled by a sin­gle com­pany com­manded by a cap­tain.”

The law­suit seeks back pay for lost com­pen­sa­tion and ad­just­ment of re­tire­ment ben­e­fits from the ef­fec­tive date of pro­mo­tion to bat­tal­ion chief, as well as un­spec­i­fied da­m­ages, in­ter­est and at­tor­ney’s fees.

Af­ter strik­ing out be­fore the county Merit Ap­peals Board and in Hilo Cir­cuit Court, the bat­tal­ion chiefs’ case now is pend­ing in the In­ter­me­di­ate Court of Ap­peals.

Their ar­gu­ment was bol­stered by a re­cent ad­ver­tise­ment at­tempt­ing to fill two va­cant po­si­tions in the de­part­ment. Only two can­di­dates ap­plied, and only one was hired, Bril­hante said.

Hilo Coun­cil­man Aaron Chung re­quested an up­date Tues­day, ask­ing if the bat­tal­ion chiefs’ pay could be raised two clas­si­fi­ca­tions up­ward, which would in­crease their range to $90,072-$149,856.

He said it’s im­por­tant to give fire­fight­ers op­por­tu­ni­ties for ad­vance­ment in or­der to de­velop man­agers from within the ranks.

“I just don’t look at it as be­ing very fair,” Chung said. “Does the cur­rent sys­tem en­cour­age or dis­cour­age fire cap­tains to as­pire to the po­si­tion of bat­tal­ion chief? … We want peo­ple to as­pire to that high­est job.”


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.