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Firefighters await ruling in controversy over pay

fire-vectorGAUTIER — A Jackson County judge will determine if the city of Gautier is violating state law by paying its firefighters for only 8 hours of holiday pay, as are other city employees, even though firefighters work 24-hour shifts.

Attorneys for Gautier and the local firefighters’ union argued the case yesterday before Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson. Jackson did not say when she might rule.

Local Firefighter’s Union 3290 filed suit against the city in April 2013. The contract between the union and the city, initially signed in 2004, only called for firefighters working on official holidays to be paid at 1-1/2 times their normal rate.

In December 2013, months after the suit was filed, the city agreed to pay firefighters the same 8 hours holiday pay regardless whether they worked or not, in addition to the time and a half paid to firefighters actually working on the holiday.

Gautier firefighter shifts run from 7 a.m. to 7 a.m. Official holidays, however, run from midnight to midnight, meaning firefighters work either 17, 7 or 0 hours on a holiday.

The city is seeking dismissal of the lawsuit.

City officials said there is no mandate supporting what the union wants in state law. It’s a decision city manager Samantha Abell is eager to get.

“Every city in the state of Mississippi should be taking notice, because this is a ruling on the state statute,” she said. “So it would have an effect on every government in the state of Mississippi. If the ruling is that every hour worked constitutes holiday pay, then obviously there’s going to be a lot of councils who will be looking at their budget.”

Timothy Fortney, president of the Local Firefighters Union 3290, said it’s a pretty simple request.

“It’s about fairness,” he said.

The union is also seeking three years’ worth of back holiday pay.

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