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Danville Firefighter’s Story Goes Viral, Revealing Competitive Pay Gap Problem For City To All – Mike Swanson

Last week, Danville firefighter Mathew Page made a post on Facebook saying that he was being forced to leave his job due to a lack of pay when compared with what other localities pay their firefighters. He had been working in Danville for seven years and wrote that “it has been a great run, having had assignments to all 3 shifts and 3 of the 7 stations and worked with some of the best people I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting. What I thought was gonna be a 30 year career was cut short, not because I dislike my job, or because I’m tired of commuting over an hour one way to work. The problem started when prices of everything from gas to groceries started increasing exponentially and inflation started running rampant. I held out hope when I saw other local fire departments increasing starting salary to $10,000 dollars higher than ours. I was certain the city government would fix our pay to be more in line with everyone else soon. I told myself this every time I filled up my gas tank to go to work and it cost $15 more then the last time I filled it up. Fast forward to summer of this year, morale was getting lower and pay wasn’t moving.”

As of yet things have not changed and so he was forced to leave his job.

As I write this, so far, his post has been shared by 703 people in Danville and liked by 426 people. Those numbers are huge, when you consider that the city has a population of just over 42,000 in it. For Facebook this is a viral post and people have been talking about it ever since it went up.

One person I saw shared a post from the fire department in Graham, North Carolina, with a hiring notice for some positions of starting pay of $47,759.00, which shows that there is indeed a huge pay gap in what Danville pays firefighters and what they are paid elsewhere when you consider that the starting pay was $34,085 for firefighters in Danville in 2022.

The Chatham Star-Tribune did a story on the topic last week, interviewing the City Manager Ken Larking and Paul Collins, the head of the Danville Professional Firefighters Association. Larking said that they can expect their pay to get boosted to match the state minimum wage law starting this January, which is $12.10 an hour – $35,443 a year. Larking also hinted that there may be more adjustments later in 2023, with a study in the works to examine the issue to be completed by June.

That $35,443 is still below what people are getting in places like Graham.

There are 145 firefighters in the Danville department.

This will undoubtedly become a big issue for the Danville City Council in 2023, but is a situation that apparently has been developing for the past few months. Page wrote in his post, “We (the Fire Dept.) had the city manager come to our shift meetings to discuss our concerns about our salary being so far behind almost every department in the state. The city manager told us the city would pay a consulting firm to conduct a pay study and compare our pay to surrounding municipalities and determine where we were falling short. I was very hopeful this would be the relief we all were waiting for. Months go by and we heard no news on the status of this pay study, until the first week of December. Union leadership sat in on a city council work session where they discussed the info obtained in the pay study. After months of waiting and hoping I was in disbelief when I heard, the pay study, that was payed for with tax dollars, suggested we increase starting pay to somewhere around $42,000 to be competitive with local fire departments. For some reason that I still can not grasp City Council and the city manager decided to ignore this info that taxpayers payed for, and instead planned to increase our starting salary from $34,xxx to $35,xxx to be in compliance with the $12 minimum wage increase the Commonwealth of Virginia is implementing in January. This was a crushing blow to every firefighter in the city. Being a firefighter is not a minimum wage job. It is a labor intensive, mentally and psychologically demanding job, which takes innumerable tolls on the human body over a 25-30 year career, from cancer, musculoskeletal injuries, and cardiac stress to PTSD and and other serious mental health problems.”

You can find Page’s full post and see how people have commented on it here.