Ocean City Resident Calls For Increase in Lifeguard Pay

Ocean City Resident Calls For Increase in Lifeguard Pay

6156
SHARE
Lifeguards watch swimmers during a busy Labor Day in 2021.

By MADDY VITALE

An Ocean City resident is urging city officials to increase the pay for lifeguards to help attract the best candidates who will keep beachgoers safe over the summer.

With Boardwalk businesses offering $15 and $16 an hour for their employees, Kathy Hogan, a Wesley Avenue resident, fears that the number of guards this season might fall short, since the pay starts at $12.80 an hour. The minimum wage for seasonal workers is $11.90.

She also noted that the neighboring communities of Stone Harbor and Avalon are paying up to $20 an hour for lifeguards.

“Why should they jump in the ocean to fight a rip current, when they can work for $16 an hour at Congo Falls?” Hogan said in an interview Friday while referring to a Boardwalk business.

Hogan has been on a campaign for the last two months, appearing at recent City Council meetings and writing emails to city officials to ask for a pay increase for the beach patrol.

She has a grandson who is an Ocean City lifeguard. She also has friends whose sons and daughters are lifeguards in the resort.

“$12.80 an hour is not enough,” Hogan said.

Hogan spoke at Thursday night’s Council meeting, urging the city administration to increase the lifeguard pay.

“Social media is being filled with comments about a potential decrease of guarded beaches due to lack of staff,” Hogan said.

She asked the city to pay the guards accordingly for “putting their lives on the line each day they sit on the stand.”

“You get what you pay for. You pay for the best,” Hogan said.

Beachgoers lounge on the sands.

Doug Bergen, city spokesman, said that the minimum wage for Ocean City’s seasonal workers is $11.90. The minimum wage for all workers was $8.60 in 2018, when a new four-year collective bargaining agreement was signed with the lifeguards’ union.

While the lifeguard wage begins at $12.80 an hour, it increases to $19.92. Senior guards, lieutenants and captains have a range of $25.16 to $38.63, Bergen said.

Bergen emphasized that a “new salary scale will be negotiated before the summer of 2023.”

There has been a decrease in the number of Ocean City lifeguards trying out, but, Bergen said, housing is a major reason for that downward trend.

“The city employs more than 160 lifeguards, and the number of young men and women participating in the annual competitive rookie tryout has decreased over time,” Bergen said. “It’s a trend that began long before the increase in minimum wage, and it has more to do with the cost and availability of seasonal housing than with the hourly wage.”

He continued, “The OCBP (Ocean City Beach Patrol) has long enjoyed a reputation for employing some of the best swimmers on the East Coast, but it’s increasingly hard for a potential lifeguard from out of the region to find summer accommodations at any seasonal wage.”

Whatever the reason it has become harder to employ enough lifeguards, Hogan said she is concerned because Memorial Day, the official kickoff to the summer season, is just weeks away.

“I’m sure many guards have already decided to go to a shore town that appreciates their skills and are willing to pay for it,” Hogan said at the Council meeting. “I would like someone to educate me on where the city stands on paying fair wages to our lifeguards.”

While protected by lifeguards, swimmers dip in the ocean on a steamy August day in 2021.