Huntsville Firefighters Association still hopes for pay parity in the future

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- Friday was just another day at Huntsville Fire Station 16. Trucks were parked out front, ready to go.

Firefighters across the city, though, came to work without the parity they had hoped for. Thursday, the parity ordinance had been removed from the agenda and Mayor Battle re-introduced a Cost of Living Adjustment increase for employees. The council approved the 1% increase for city employees without much fanfare.

"Mayor Battle had pitted the parity ordinance against the cost of living raise. We felt like it would be in everybody's best interest to set the parity aside," said Stephen Jones, President of the Huntsville Fire Fighters Association.

He said everyone won with the increase, but the parity issue isn't going away.

"It will be discussed again at a later time," he promised, because he believes it's still necessary. He claims it's getting harder to recruit firefighters who can meet qualifications for the job because of the lower pay, and higher wages would help them stay competitive.

"You have firefighters that hire into the city of Huntsville at $12.61," he said. "This remains an issue."

While firefighters are happy to see the slight increase for everyone, he says they're not so excited to see pay that low. But there are other goals to reach for.

"There's still that training facility we've been asking for the pat 10 years that we can't get," he said. "So we have other things we're going to concentrate on."

This Firefighter Appreciation Day (as celebrated by the State of Alabama) Jones says one bigger thing trumps it all, though: "We're just glad to go home every morning and see our families. But we're also glad to be here to protect the citizens and their families as well."