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City giving 800k to Birmingham Fire and Rescue for recruiting; but union officials say it’s only for paramedics and EMTs

Firefighters voice concerns over new hire incentives
Published: Apr. 20, 2022 at 10:17 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 20, 2022 at 11:38 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The city of Birmingham is carving out 800 thousand dollars from the surplus budget to help Birmingham Fire with recruitment and retention.

With the city’s money, the recruitment plan gives newly hired paramedics 10 thousand dollars over a five year span and EMT’s get a five thousand dollar sign on bonus. There is another five thousand carved out for current paramedics to receive every year they are assigned an ambulance.

The Birmingham Firefighter Association said this is helpful because they are short staffed for ambulances, but President Stephen Cook said it still does not compete with bonuses given out by other cities. He said other cities give out more than eight thousand dollars in bonuses.

“It’s great that we have a bonus,” Cook said. “But, if we are simply meeting the bonus that everybody else is doing, then we aren’t getting ahead. We aren’t being more competitive than everybody else.”

Cook said he fears this will cause divisiveness within the department between firefighters and paramedics and EMT’s. He said right now no surplus money is going to new hire firefighters or current firefighters.

“There is no incentive for EMT basics,” Cook said, “We have a big shortage of EMT basics, which is our standard for a firefighter. We have a big shortage of those and this doesn’t help recruit those in any way.”

Cook said the department is not staffing the trucks to the national standard. He said national standard requires five on an engine and six on a truck in an urban setting. He said right now, they are doing about half of that.

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