Augusta firefighters face pay problems again

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A lot of Augusta firefighters have been short changed on their paychecks, not just once or twice, but over the course of an entire year.
It's not the first time something like this has happened. Last time the city blamed a mistake on human error, this time they're blaming a software system.

Charles Masters in charge of making sure Augusta's firefighters have a voice. He's speaking out for all 300 of them today.

"Our history here is solid, we've got the best men and women here in the state," Masters, the President of the Augusta Professional Firefighters Association said.

He doesn't feel like they are being treated like they are the best.

"There's a long history of the city trying to manipulate the pay of firefighters," Masters said.

Masters says there's been complaints about pay since 1988. In the past five years alone, firefighters have had issues with not being paid enough, to also getting checks with thousands of extra dollars, that had to be paid back.

"For our department everything starts for us with our chief and that's where the buck stops," Masters said.

"We haven't had correct leadership that says that public safety is a priority to us," Master said.

A lawsuit filed by firefighters last year over problems with pay will cost the city around $85,000 dollars, but it doesn't end there.

"It's not the amount of money they are paying us, it's the money they owe us, it's the loopholes they try to find every single year," Masters said.

Firefighters complained to the city administrator last month about extra money they're supposed to get for being certified as EMT's an paramedics.

"We were told in that meeting by legal that we're paying you right that we've already fixed it, it's done like it's a continuous thing, like it's not done," Master said.

After the city administrator looked into the complaint she found they were right. It was not being calculated correctly when it comes to overtime. They had been short changed for the past year. Masters says in total they could be owed $250,000 dollars.

"It's been a battle and its been one that honestly we shouldn't have to fight," Master said.

The city administrator says the mistake is the software company's fault, but she says city staff should have tested the system last year to make sure it worked.

The firefighters association says even though they aren't pleased with leadership. They have been very pleased with Augusta City Administrator Janice Allen Jackson.

They say she was very straightforward, figured out the problem, and vowed to fix it.

We reached out to Chief James for a statement, but his staff told us he was in meetings.