Firefighters push Town of Mount Pleasant for salary increase

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 9:57 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 10, 2021 at 11:55 PM EDT
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MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (WCSC) - The Professional Fire Fighters Association of South Carolina is pushing the Town of Mount Pleasant to increase the salaries of its firefighters.

“At the end of one year a firefighter in Mount Pleasant makes $5,500 less than seven surrounding departments,” Professional Fire Fighters Association of South Carolina Vice President William Pesature said. “They’ve lost 67 people in four years. It’s a 120-person department. That means in less that in less than 10 years you have lost your entire department.”

Pesature and dozens of other firefighters and supporters flooded the Town of Mount Pleasant town council meeting Tuesday night to expresses their concerns about the wages. The town has yet to release a muchly anticipated wage comparison study, but the firefighting association says at least one firefighter was hired at just $11.77 an hour.

“This is their livelihood. This is what they love to do. They don’t want to leave. They want to stay and do this here,” Pesature said. “Unfortunately, Mount Pleasant’s pay scale forces a lot of people to leave.”

The town did not immediately reply to a request for comment, nor have they provided any numbers in regard to salaries. However, on Aug. 2 a job was posted for a firefighter trainee position with a listed minimum pay rate of $36,678.54. For a person who works 40 hour weeks that would translate to about $17.50 an hour. However, Pesature says that number does not reflect how firefighters work 24 hour shifts and have overtime built into their schedule. He says accounting for the different kind of scheduling, the real wage is closer to $11.77 an hour.

Pesature says a low salary doesn’t just impact moral, it can be a safety issue as well.

“The most valued thing that a firefighter can be is a senior firefighter because you can teach everybody else what to do,” Pesature said. “And when they leave they take all of their experience with them.”

It’s a double whammy for Pesature who says it costs the town more than $100,000 to train new firefighters. He says if they could retain employees, the town could bring its training cost down.

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