Personnel board tables vote on pay changes

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - A show of solidarity persuaded the Jefferson County personnel board Tuesday to back down on making major changes to employee's salaries.

More than 250 employees who fall under the board's purview turned out for the public hearing.  Representatives wore their uniforms and t-shirts representing their jurisdictions and departments, including firefighters, police officers and civil service employees from Bessemer, Gardendale, Homewood, Irondale, Vestavia Hills, Birmingham and Jefferson County.

More than a dozen representatives spoke to the board, asking the three member panel to reconsider changing rules that would have affected hundreds of employees' salaries and potentially their retirement plans.

The changes would have allowed municipalities to implement furloughs and allowed cities to reduce the annual merit raises of employees from five percent to 2.5 percent.  That change would have meant employees had to work 19 years before reaching their maximum salary as opposed to 10 years with the current rules in place.

"It's not the Jefferson County personnel board's duty to balance the budgets for municipalities," said Roger Wyatt, president of the Professional Firefighters of Alabama.  "All of these rule changes are designed to give cities more leeway to put budget cuts on the backs of employees."

After hearing more than an hour's worth of comments, board chairman Bobby Smith told the group he had heard enough and made a motion to table the proposal until a later time.  The room erupted in applause at the suggestion as employees rose to their feet.

After the meeting, Smith spoke to reporters. "In some ways, it would have allowed for more flexibilities for appointing authorities," Smith said.  "But the employees today made a good case."