EMS Unions Strongly Ratify 49-Month Pact

By BOB HENNELLY | September 8, 2021

The unions representing Emergency Medical Technicians and officers by a vote of 2,970 to 45 approved the 49-month contract reached by their leaders and the de Blasio administration last month.

District Council 37 Local 2507, which represents EMTs and and Fire Inspectors, and Local 3621, which represents Emergency Medical Service officers, had urged members to ratify the deal even while lamenting that it fell well short of their goal of pay parity with the other uniformed emergency services.

Retro by Year’s End?

Union officials expect that members will be receiving checks with thousands of dollars in retroactive money for raises going back to 2018, by the end of the year.

But even after the raises are implemented, large pay gaps will exist in maximum salary between senior EMTs and Firefighters, and the EMYs are entitled to just 12 sick days a year while Firefighters get unlimited sick time.

Over 70 percent of the members weighed in on the contract, which bumps EMTs’ top pay from $53,437—earned after 5 1/2 years of service—to $68,700—with the top rate now reached after five years, with longevity differentials bringing 20-year veterans to $74,100.

“It’s hard to tell the average amount of retroactive pay because it depends on the amount of overtime, which due to chronic short-staffing, is a normal thing,” said Vincent Variale, president of Local 3621. “But you could be talking about several thousands of dollars, sure.”

Paramedic Boosts

Paramedics, who have the civil-service title of EMT II, will see their top pay go from $65,000 to $86,379—with five years’ service in the title also the new qualifying standard, and 20-year vets getting $91,779 a year.

Under the terms of the pact, the starting salary for EMTs jumps from $35,254—which the union has complained barely topped minimum wage—to $39,386.

Fire Protection Inspectors will see their starting pay raised to $52,070, going to $62,808 after five years on the job and reaching $73,986 counting differentials for employees with 20-years on the job.

Union officials say it should take the city two to three pay cycles to incorporate the new rate schedules into members’ paychecks.

Mr. Variale said the high percentage of members who voted on the contract was a validation for the way the unions negotiated it.

Shows Urgency

“We never had anything like that,” he said during a Sept. 7 phone interview. “In other years we are talking about a 30-to-40-percent return. It demonstrates the financial need for our members, who have really been suffering through this time, and they saw the opportunity to get a raise and took it.”

He added, “It also shows that when we talked to our members and told them to take this, and we would work to parity with Eric Adams, they actually listened to us. It’s a strong expression of unity that actually strengthens our hand going forward.”

“This contract was hard-fought and brings some financial relief in the immediate, but the fight for equal treatment in the FDNY continues, including our fight for pay parity and uniformed status,” said Oren Barzilay, president of DC 37 Local 2507, in a statement to union members “These goals are attainable, and with your support we will get there together.”

The EMS unions helped to fund the portion of their pay hikes beyond the pattern previously agreed to by DC 37 for the rest of its 125,000-plus members by increasing their work schedules. The city also agreed to a 6-percent pay differential as part of its expansion of the mental-health-response pilot program that pairs EMS workers with mental-health professionals in responding to non-violent mental-health calls that have traditionally been handled by police.

Breakdown of Raises

The first three raises under the pact—2 percent retroactive to June 29, 2018, 2.25 percent effective on that same date in 2019, and 3 percent as of July 29 last year—match the terms reached by DC 37 39 months ago for its other members. The final 4-percent raise is payable effective Sept. 12 and was partially funded by an extension of the contract by roughly five months beyond that DC 37 deal.

Under the ratified deal, FDNY EMS will have to work 2,088 hours in a year, up from 1,957, matching the schedules under state law for cops and firefighters. That additional EMS availability generated a productivity increase because the Fire Department will be able to cut back on overtime.

In recent years, in public testimony the FDNY’s leadership advocated for higher pay and conceded that high turnover  in EMS, with younger workers leaving for better-paying jobs in other jurisdictions or within the uniformed services, was a concern. During City Council hearings both EMS brass and the unions flagged as problematic the large number of EMTs taking advantage of a special promotion exam that gave them hiring preference for Firefighter, which offers significantly higher pay and superior pension, longevity and sick-leave benefits.