Uniformed staff salaries on the up

| 03/06/2015 | 30 Comments
Cayman News Service

Cayman Islands Fire Service officer at work (Photo by Dennie Warren Jr)

(CNS): Firefighters, police, customs and immigration officers and other uniformed service branches will soon see a pay rise in addition to the 4% cost of living allowance (COLA) next month as their pay scales are being reevaluated to introduce fairness and take account of the risks involved in their work, the premier said. Since the start of the civil service pay and recruitment freeze, the last uniformed service to see a review was the prison in 2009. But some branches, like the fire service, have had the same pay scales for as long as 19 years.

As legislators wrestled during Finance Committee with the problems surrounding pay and benefits for the uniformed services, as well as recruitment and retention, it was revealed that law enforcement and emergency service providers would have a pay review, leveling the playing field when it comes to salaries and benefits across the service branches.

Because the prison was reviewed in 2009, prison officers are currently at the top of the uniformed pay scale, with the lowest starting salaries over $3,100 per month and a number of benefits, such as housing allowances and call-out benefits. Meanwhile, the fire service remains at the bottom of the pay scale, with starting salaries as low as just $2,600, which compares with the basic starting point for the police but firefighters do not get the benefits given to the RCIPS, such as housing, clothing and operational allowances that push the basic up to more than $3,000.

The firefighters can, in theory, earn overtime but that has been something of a sore point for crews in recent times. As well as not having had a pay review of any kind for 19 years over the last few years, firefighters have had to fight tooth and nail to get the overtime they were owed, which has seriously undermined morale.

In a recent interview with CNS reporter Kenneth Bryan, Eric Bush admitted that the government had tried to cut the government’s overtime bill for fighters in half by offering fire crews just 50 cents on the dollar that they were owed because government didn’t think it could cover the bill that it had accumulated for years.

In the end, due to the persistence of the staff, government eventually paid the full outstanding overtime bill, ending the long battle. But pay still remains low in what is acknowledged by the community not only as a critical job but a dangerous one as well.

As a result, the premier said that the Fire Service pay would soon be under review when the current review of the RCIPS salary scales is complete, with a view to making sure that the uniformed pay grades are on equal footing.

“We have been through seven years of austerity and no reviews, as salaries were frozen and hiring restrictions enforced,” the premier reminded committee members as he confirmed that government started last year to look at the pay scales. He said the objective was “to bring fairness and to take into account risk factors in jobs, the difficulties and stress”.

Finance Minister Marco Archer confirmed that customs officers have also had a salary review and the results of that would be announced soon.

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Category: Government Finance, Politics, Video

Comments (30)

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  1. Robbie says:

    Immigration officers can be rude I agree, but the general public can be ruder. Having had to sit in a few long lines at the immigration department I have observed the abuse given. Immigration officers have to enforce an ever changing law that they sometimes have not been educated enough about and have to hand out decisions that are not very popular but it is the law. Customer service needs to improve but you get what you pay for. You want good service then pay to attract good mature staff.

    Customs also need to improve in the areas of customer service in some departments I agree, but people assume that you only see custom officers at the airport and when you go to collect items to pay duty. However they are quite a few different departments of customs that put people to work in very danger situations some that can not be mentioned here, but they work in the rain, the sweltering sun in temperatures of over 100 degrees (more frequently than not), some do not have proper bathroom facilities on site, they do searches, can make arrest and also have to frequently deal with very rude customers more often than not who try to avoid duty. Some custom officers are exposed to radiation on a daily basis so much so that they have to get scanned monthly to ensure that the have not been overexposed. They ensure that drugs and weapons are kept out of the country as much as they are capable of, they ensure that our plant life and fauna are protected by preventing illegal importation.

    both department help to bring in most of the revenue to support our government, that in terms helps to provide the much need infrastructure etc provide to us by government. Without the revenue they produce, where does the cash come from to pay the teachers.

    The fact is many of the luxuries we enjoy including safety is maintained by all uniformed services. I bet all the people bashing them would not work in the conditions they have to for the pay they get. Rather than run your mouth find out facts and support the people who help to provide security to our islands. They are not perfect and like all of us, they can surely be improved, but they deserve to be compensated appropriately for the job they do.

  2. Robbie says:

    Firefighters respond to emergency situations and protect people, the environment and property from all types of accident and emergencies.

    They work closely with the local community to increase their level of fire safety awareness in order to help prevent fires and accidents happening in the first place.

    Promoting fire safety and enforcing fire safety standards in public and commercial premises, they act and advise on all matters relating to the protection of life and property from fire and other risks.

    The role of a firefighter covers a diverse range of tasks, some they do everyday and some less frequent. They include:
    •responding immediately and safely to emergency calls and requests for assistance;
    •attending emergency incidents including fires, road accidents, floods, terrorist incidents, spillages of dangerous substances, and air crashes;
    •rescuing trapped people and animals;
    •minimising distress and suffering, including giving first aid before ambulance crews arrive;
    •safeguarding your own and other people’s personal safety at all times;
    •cleaning up and checking the site after dealing with an incident;
    •taking time to become familiar with local streets, roads and buildings so you can respond to emergency calls with speed and efficiency;
    •inspecting and maintaining the appliance (fire engine) and its equipment, assisting in testing fire extinguisher and checking emergency water supplies;
    •undertaking drills and physical training and taking part in training on techniques, use of equipment and related matters;
    •maintaining the level of physical fitness necessary to carry out all the duties of a firefighter;
    •educating and informing the public to promote fire safety by giving talks in schools and to local organisations, as well as home visits to offer advice, etc;
    •maintaining links with the local community.
    • building inspection of commercial and residential properties to ensure codes are adhered to for the benefit of the community.

    At management level, they perform extra supervisory activities which include managing operational incidents and directing the day-to-day tasks of personnel on fire stations. the operational aspects of firefighting, although important, are a minor part of a senior manager’s role in a large service. Responsibilities typically include:
    •assessing situations quickly and deciding on the best course of action;
    •directing the crew;
    •writing full incident reports;
    •fire investigation;
    •budget administration and control;
    •allocation of personnel and resources to achieve performance targets;
    •negotiating with representative bodies;
    •dealing with external agencies;
    •planning and resource management;
    •dealing with political aspects of the Fire and Rescue Authority (FRA).

    Working hours

    As a firefighter, hours of work typically include regular unsocial hours. Shift work is usual – most work two day shifts followed by two night shifts and then have four days off. However, different services employ different duty systems, depending on their needs. When necessary, paid overtime is worked.

    What to expect
    •The work often takes place in dangerous and unpleasant conditions: in heat and cold, at heights, in enclosed spaces, in smoke-filled buildings, and in all kinds of weather conditions. You may be exposed to danger from collapsing buildings or vehicles, explosions and fumes. You need to be physically fit, as firefighters carry heavy equipment and breathing apparatus.

    You never know what happens on a call out. You have to be mentally, physically and psychologically prepared.

    After reading all of the above it should be hard for anyone to still think fire fighters are not important nor should they be compensated accordingly. Call out to fires I this country is very low because we have very good fire codes which our firemen ensure we observe.

  3. Anonymous says:

    What about teachers?? Look at the challenges that they face each day trying to educate our students; and what about those persons on the bi-weekly scale including electricians, plumbers, etc. it seems these jobs are only valuable during major disasters e.g. hurricanes, etc. I know these people can hardly make it from pay day to pay day. It is very unfair, as most of these posts are paid very low salaries/wages compared to their qualifications and experiences. The Government should not just favour the uniformed branches, but look overall at the whole Civil Service.

    • Robbie says:

      You should have listened to the budget address. it is not just the uniformed services that will be reviewed for salary consideration, but the entire civil service. However it is believe that uniformed services will be addressed first. we may not agree but when they bring in the most revenue for government they should be considered.

      The issue is joe public does not believe in paying the civil service properly regardless of qualification, work ethics or otherwise. Joe public does not realize that without the civil service there would be community. the reality is the civil service is the heart of this country. It monitors the finance industry, it ensures that our laws and regulation are such that the financial services can attract clientele, it monitors the tourism industry, it keeps us safe, it provide us with health services, youth services, provide garbage collection, provides education, provides a judicial system, it provides counseling service and the list goes on, most of it at a minimal cost.

      I am not a civil servant but I have many friends who work in various agencies, who are teachers, surveyors, uniformed officers policy advisors etc to know the work they put in so I agree look at the overall civil service. based on a recent report release by government 61% of their staff earns $3000 or less, which by the way could qualify them for social services.

  4. Anonymous says:

    CNS : can someone please do an FOI to see how much overtime, acting and at what level (including the five retired officers salaries & vacation pay), was paid to firefighters for the last 2 years. How much paid sick leave was taken:

    CNS: Yes, you can do that.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am shocked and disappointed in both the community and government… The country on a whole…
    Almost every other country gives firefighters there utmost respect and appreciation.
    They risk their lives to protect ours, not knowing if the next call will be their last call. Not knowing if they will come home to kiss, hug or even play / spend time with their wife and / or children.

    First and foremost, they assist medical and police and other essential services, which the public seems to be unaware of…

    How many people are willing to risk there lives running into a burning building to search for and save someone’s life?
    They bare emotional scares from sights many can only imagine. Keep in mind some of these images could be their own family members. That they attempt to rescue.
    You state that they do nothing but play games and wash vehicle’s… WELL
    How many can calculate pressure, volume, and velocity when pumping water through a 6in hose reduced to 2in….
    Your essential services must be educated and qualified to perform their duties.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Everyone complains about how little these workers do…But I bet there is no complaining when:

    – Your house is on fire because you forgot something on the stove….

    – or when your friend is trapped in his flipped car because he was driving a little over 300mph in a school zone…

    – or when someone is trying to kick down your back door in the middle of the night…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I know let the teachers behave like the firefighters and play dominoes all day that way they may actually get a pay rise over and above the 4%.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am really shocked and appalled by some of these comments. Firefighters are very important to the country and are supposed to be treated that way. I never like to hear comments about firefighters playing dominoes or basketball all day. People should learn more about these departments and our teachers are the ones who first come in contact with these young men and women who are uniformed members and deserved to be treated with respect.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Buying votes comes to mind. Clearly teachers must not matter in the voting pecking order.

  9. Anonymous says:

    If we have no firefighters then we have no planes landing. They have to be there. If that takes overtime then so be it and let them be compensated for their time and knowledge.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Well the risk of being called out are very slim and its very stressful wondering if you will ever be found out!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Wow Mr Bryan is coming out swinging. Can’t blame him. But I must say that this report is revealing obvious discrepancies/unfairness within Govt. Good job Kenny and hope he expose more.

  12. Mr. Lee 4 Life says:

    We’ll never get the quality police and firefighters (and other civil servants) that we need until we pay better salaries for better teachers.

    Teachers should be at the higher end of the civil service remuneration system. You get what you pay for.

    A novel approach I know. How about we think outside our little box for once.

  13. Jack Dan Paddy O'Connor says:

    Risk, difficulties and stress……….only for the dump busting into flames every now and again these lads would have nothing to do at all at all, apart from sleeping and playing dominoes.

  14. Anonymous says:

    If you want to know about stress then teach in a Cayman classroom. In comparison to them the police and firefighters have it easy.

  15. Frumpy says:

    0743 because of when you go away on the 6 am flight u ninky u!

    • Anonymous says:

      Pay increase for what? Immigration? Miserable most of the time, slow all the time. Police? Crime has increased, not doing their job. Customs? Miserable most of the time, show all the time, capital “RUDE”, fire department, when they care called out they are risking their lives. Any other government worker? They don’t need any increase at all

  16. Anonymous says:

    which part of the e&y report called for pay increases??????

  17. sam says:

    USD or CID?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Given the results of the recent report on the Fire Dept pointing out how few times they were called out from polishing their machines, can someone say what risks/stress they face? But I do agree the gap between them and the police (not a hell of a lot of risk there either for the 400+ cops) should be closed.

    • Shhhhhh. says:

      How would you like to be stop checking tinted cars alone at night, unarmed? Or going into night clubs to break up fights on a Friday night routinely? Not to mention certain other dangerous responses. Talk is cheap.

      • Anonymous says:

        Tinted car windows are illegal. They should be confiscated or issued an on the spot fine. Perhaos if more laws were actually enforced there would not be so much danger facing the police.

  19. Anonymous says:

    As we have so few fires in Cayman (apart from Mt PPMMore formerly Mt Trashmore), it is not clear to me how our firefighters can accumulate so much overtime. Can’t they polish their fire engines during working hours rather than watch TV?.
    As for customs and immigration can we be enlightened as to exactly where the stress and risks are involved?.

    • My people says:

      People like you sounds lost and may never understand or don’t want to.

    • Anonymous says:

      I can’t say for the firemen, but the immigration officers are under heavy duress and stress when they are given directives by our government to sell out their birthright and their country.

    • Anonymous says:

      I know for a fact the firefighters always have a shine on those trucks.

      • Anonymous says:

        Well you have to do something during those long hours of overtime not to mention normal working hours. Could someone do a FOI as to how many call outs they have in any one year?

    • Anon says:

      It is high time that these salaries be reviewed and some substantial increase be made. How does the Fire Service expect to attract quality employees at these salaries?

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