WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington City Council is taking a look at employee pay. Leaders say salaries in the Port City are behind the market average.
Research shows in 2012 Wilmington was nine percent behind the state average for worker pay.
Leaders say they have not been able to make pay increases because of tough economic times, but they recognize the employees' hard work.
"We definitely want them to be well paid," Mayor Bill Saffo said. "They deserve to be well paid."
Although city employees saw a two-percent increase in pay and as much as a 1.5-percent merit pay raise this fiscal year, workers are still paid less than market.
Wilmington firefighters are paid 21 percent less than the state average and police are eight percent behind.
"All they want they want is to be treated fairly. They want fair compensation compared to their peers, and I don't think that is unreasonable," Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said.
To make that happen, City Council introduced a policy to pay city employees a living wage that is 90 percent of the market pay for the southeast region of the state this fiscal year. They say over the next three- to five-year period, pay will increase between three and five percent annually.
"It is my intention as the mayor, for the next two years, is to make those pay adjustments so we can be competitive," Saffo said.
The city is losing workers to places like Greensboro, Greenville, Asheville, Durham, Winston-Salem and even in our own backyard to New Hanover County and CFPUA.
"If CFPUA is paying a higher wage for the same job they are doing here in the city, I mean, God bless," Saffo said. "That is what America is about: finding the best opportunity for you and your family."
Just this week City Council approved a plan that would give the city's elected leaders a pay raise whenever city workers get an across-the-board increase.