Shallow Cuts For Lifeguard Pensions

Katy Grimes: With the recent discovery that many Southern California lifeguards receive the same fat pensions as other “public safety” officers and fire fighters, the public outcry at the absurdity is apparently paying off.

The Newport Beach City Council is scheduled to vote on a new contract for full-time lifeguards scaling back the retirement benefits, and requiring employees to actually contribute something to the benefit.

The justification for the “public safety” pension for lifeguards is that they perform an important job.

I was a lifeguard many years ago. It was a cool job and I was grateful for the slightly-better-than-minimum-wage pay I received.

Lifeguards are well trained in first-aid, life-saving courses and CPR. Lifeguards are strong swimmers, and usually quite fit.

But what few lifeguards will admit is that they are also glorified babysitters. Whether working at a swimming pool or a beach, lifeguards are often mediators and babysitters for inattentive parents.

And, Lifeguards save lives even less frequently than fire fighters rescue women and children from burning houses.

Wikipedia accurately reports, “A lifeguard’s key duties on a beach (usually as part of a team, but in some places, lifeguards may occasionally be required to work on their own) are to:

  • Enforce rules in order to anticipate problems/injuries
  • Maintain concentrated observation of the duty area and its users in order to anticipate problems (this will enable the lifeguard to intervene with one of the drowning prevention measures) and to identify an emergency quickly.
  • Supervise the use of other equipment when allocated to that duty (such as water slides or any other activities taking place)
  • Carry out rescues and initiate other emergency action as necessary
  • Give immediate first aid in the event of injury to a bather or other incident
  • Communicate with bathers and other users to help fulfill the above tasks

Lifeguards may have other secondary duties such as cleaning, filing paperwork, checking a swimming pool’s chlorine and pH levels or acting as a general information point. It is important that lifeguards never allow their secondary responsibilities to interfere with their primary responsibilities.”

Yes, that about sums it up for lifeguard duties. I even taught swim lessons for a little extra pay.

“Municipal lifeguards start at around $60,000 a year, and pay escalates up to $115,000 at the supervisory level. Pensions are based, in part, on a lifeguard’s final salary. In Newport Beach, the pay is even better, with some senior supervisors earning $150,000 a year, including overtime,” The Los Angeles Times reported.

“Lifeguards say that their profession can be as dangerous as law enforcement and firefighting, and they should also be rewarded for the high risk. ‘”I’ve had multiple skin cancers removed. We’re driving under crumbling cliffs every day … at any given second they can collapse. We’re risking our lives,”‘ said Lt. Jason Shook, 43, one of Solana Beach’s three full-time lifeguards.”

The entry-level pay for a full-time city lifeguard is $60,000 – I think Mr. Shook can afford a tube of sunscreen.

Until all of the ridiculous government classifications for pensions are reeled in, California will continue to be the laughing stock of the country as we spend and even budget our way right into insolvency. And who will be screaming the loudest when the government can no longer afford to send the pension checks?

JUNE 28, 2011

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