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Concern for firefighters getting extra pay

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by Nick Delgado

Guam - Guam firefighters are crying foul claiming several of their colleagues are getting extra pay and not putting the hours to actually earn it. But GFD management defends the allegations saying that they have not violated any laws.

 "To me that's greed and that manipulation and just scamming" said public safety oversight chair Senator Adolpho Palacios. He's received several concerns from GFD firefighters about the seven uniformed personnel that are working at the department's headquarters that are still receiving the same 24-hour shift pay as the officials who are actually stationed out in the field.

"Twenty-four on, twenty-four off, twenty-four on twenty-four off - that is the purpose for that compensation plan and not to be applied to people who work 8-to-5 Monday to Friday administrative and not exposed to the hazards out there," said the senator.

The frustrated firefighters sent a letter to Palacios urging that he have Acting Fire Chief John Salas explain why the headquarters staff is getting paid for 106 regular hours along with 14 hours overtime and 60 hours night differential. "The only time that the law authorizes for the compensation of 106 hours regular bi-weekly and 14 hours overtime together are for those who are assigned to a 24 hours shift," he said.

Palacios added, "Definitely if you are not out there in the fire station then you are not qualified."

And Assistant Fire Chief Mike Uncangco added, "These firefighters down there [sic] are basically there to support the mission of the fire department. He further defended the compensation, saying, "These are firefighters and they are entitled to that and the question is are they working those hours, yes they are working those hours...I feel that it is not right for us to force them in there and pay them 80 hours when these guys are volunteering to support the department and GovGuam as a whole."

Uncangco argues the uniformed staff at the headquarters help secure federal funds, conduct training and night inspections as well as are activated to assist with big rescue missions.

GFD officials confirm that this has been an issue in the previous administration that some of their firefighters have been working down at the headquarters and not working the entire 24 hours. The assistant fire chief now says that they are working to get a handle on the issue and ensure that every firefighter meets the full requirements. He said, "The fire chief has made it a point and I have taken the lead role to make sure that each and every firefighter assigned down there works the hours."

Senator Palacios says he will question the acting chief about the pay during the fire chief's confirmation hearing Monday. Palacios also plans to bring the issue before the Department of Administration, saying, "As the paying authority for claims of that that this is not according to law and that the compensation is not authorized essentially."

In the meantime, the confirmation hearing for the fire chief, and the Department of Corrections director will be held next Monday at 9am. The confirmation hearing for the chief of police will follow at 1:30pm.

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