SELMA Ala. (WSFA) - For the second day in a row, several City of Selma departments were closed as employees protested being overworked and underpaid.
Selma Mayor Darrio Melton received a letter from several city employees on Wednesday explaining their absence.
“They decided to take sick and vacation leave until the council hears from them and as of today [Thursday] they’re still out," Melton said.
In the letter, the employees asked for better wages, better equipment and additional employees.
“They want better pay, they want more staffing in their departments and they want the appropriate equipment to be able to carry out their duties," said Melton. “Employees came to me expressing their frustration about how they felt the council just totally ignored them. They went before the council to express what they wanted and what they needed to be successful; however, the council took months and weeks of hearing the employees’ frustration and then decided to just ignore them."
Melton confirmed the following departments were closed on Wednesday and Thursday.
- Public Works
- Tax and Licensing Department
- Building Inspector
- Clerk’s Office
- Planning and Development
According to Melton, there is money available in the budget to increase the employees’ wages and hire additional employees, but the city council is not willing to move forward and work with the executive office.
“The money that was left over from the previous year is available for the council to meet that demand from the employees," said Melton. “It’s up to the council. They control all the revenue, which is state statute. I can’t control the revenues. If I had the power to do it I would meet those demands of all employees. They rightfully deserve these raises.”
In 2018, the city laid off 68 employees. Because of those layoffs, $2 million was left over in the general fund.
“If the council took that $2 million, that would be sufficient enough to justify the pay increases and wages the employees asked for,” Melton said.
Melton said he believes it’s politics that’s keeping the council from passing a budget that would include the increased wages.
“I think the council needs to do their job instead of all of this politicking that’s going on," Melton said.
Melton said he’s reached out to the city council’s president, Corey Bowie, numerous times, but hasn’t heard back.
“I have yet to hear back from him and here we are at the end of the second day of employees being out," Melton said.
WSFA 12 News was able to get in contact with Bowie, who said the council is doing everything it can to meet the demands of the employees.
“We will be having our regular scheduled meeting Monday and Tuesday, and also in the meantime we will be working with the finance committee, looking at ways to resolve this problem," Bowie said.
According to Bowie, he’s not sure if the council has the money in its budget to raise the city employees’ wages.
“I’m not saying that the money’s not there, but we just want to make sure we’ve maximized whatever we can as far as services, and also making sure that it’s adequate pay for the employees. We advocate for all our employees,” Bowie said.
The city council will not be calling a special called meeting. Rather, the council will be holding its regularly scheduled meeting next week.