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Raleigh City Council to vote on reversal of firefighter benefit cuts

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Members of Raleigh's Civil Service Commission voted on Thursday to recommend the City Council reverse the benefit cuts that passed the council in a meeting last week. (WTVD)

Regardless of whether it was miscommunication or mischief, Raleigh firefighters said they're "encouraged" by the Civil Service Commission's unanimous recommendation that the City Council reverse controversial cuts to benefits.

"They asked all the right questions today about what happened," firefighter Chris Ferrell told ABC11. "We think this recommendation is right on the money."

Specifically, the previously approved policy demands that all firefighters earn one 12-hour vacation day every month worked, and since firefighters work 24-hours, a "full" vacation day actually requires two. The former policy increased vacation time earnings based on seniority.

READ MORE: Raleigh firefighters angry at sudden cuts to benefits

In regards to holiday pay, the new policy reduces pay from 16 to eight hours, which again, is significant for firefighters working 24-hour shifts.

"The goal of the commission was to give everyone better pay and better benefits because there's been an issue with pay for years," a member of the Civil Service Commission Rick Armstrong told ABC11. "We have some really good questions to ask city staff on why these things were in here."

Adding to the controversy - and confusion - is the way in which the policy was approved unanimously by members of the Raleigh City Council: City Manager Ruffin Hall filed the proposal under the "Consent Agenda" section at the council's September 5 meeting.

According to the City of Raleigh website, consent agenda items are "considered to be routine and may be enacted by one motion." Hall's office again refused ABC11's request for an interview.

Interim Director of Human Resources Lisa Keech told ABC11 that the intent of the changes was to streamline all department policies into one consistent policy for Raleigh's 7,000 city employees.

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"There are some employees paid different amounts for working different hours and we wanted to find some equity," Keech explained. "We have a very diverse workforce of public utilities, parks and recreation, and many others."

Keech, though, has been thrust into this controversy after only two weeks on the job; she was not part of the original HR effort that wrote the original proposal.

"I know we can do better with communication. We can always do better with that."
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