A Chicago firefighters union spokesman said he is "let down and disgusted” by claims of department employees receiving $80 million in annual perks.
“The job of saving people’s lives falls squarely on the shoulders of the fire department," said firefighter Tim O’Brien. "Our members have risen to the challenge. They have gone to get their EMT.”
A report from the Chicago Sun-Times shows many fire department employees get paid more than their posted salary thanks to double-time holiday pay and increases for extra training.
Rank-and-file firefighters averaged $80,000 in 2011, but the Sun-Times reports some actually made $90,000. The department's salary averaged to about $104,000, the Sun-Times reports, instead of the $87,000 posted on Mayor Rahm Emanuel's online web portal of statistics and salaries.
One perk is an extra 5 percent for those who complete hazardous-materials training. Twice the number of firefighters took the training by the start of the year than in 2008, according to the Sun-Times. Specialty training cost $18.3 million last year compared to $6.4 million in 2008.
O'Brien said the training is necessary, especially ahead of the NATO Summit.
"Don’t they want us to be cross trained?” he said, noting different emergency training programs have increased the survival rate.
“The better trained we are, the better equipped we are," O'Brien said. "We save more lives.”
Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), whose firefighter brother made about $115,000 last year, told the Sun-Times firefighters deserve the higher salary.
But the president of the Civic Federation told the publication the city no longer can afford additional compensation
O'Brien begs to differ.
“Look at how many have had their lives since Emanuel took office, over one thousand saves," he said, "just by shootings alone, thanks to our cross-savings program.”