NYC paramedics ink new deal; to receive retroactive wage increases

NYC's EMS workforce has been facing a significant retention crisis, as 50% of EMT’s were quitting after just three years on the job and 70% were leaving for other jobs and careers by their fifth year.
Photo REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

In the midst of a paramedic workforce crisis that includes declining retention rates across the city, NYC paramedics received a big victory on Friday, earning retroactive wage increases following months of labor negotiations.

In a tentative agreement struck between union group EMS Local 2507 leaders and the New York City labor commissioners, FDNY Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT), paramedics and fire inspectors will receive an increase of wages compensatory to years on the job and is being funded through an extra 130 hours annually, going from a scheduled 1,957 hours to 2,088 hours.

Oren Barzilay, president of EMS Local 2507, said that the agreement is a “start” for New York City paramedics who have been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic and faced a decline in retention including 50% of EMT’s quitting after their first three years on the job as well as growing safety concerns.

“Our union has aggressively fought to make the public more aware of the challenging workplace and economic conditions of the women and men of FDNY EMS,” said Barzilay in a statement.  “This contract is but a start, to bring us closer to the wage equity we have been fighting for. New Yorkers have made it abundantly clear, that they respect the work and sacrifice of our amazingly dedicated and professional EMS and Fire Inspectors.”

Under the tentative agreement, a top paid paramedic will earn a base salary of $65,000, which increases to $86,379 after the fifth year of employment and up to $91,779 after 20 years.

Additionally, top paid fire protection inspectors earn a starting wage of $52,070 upon being hired, with an increase to $62,808 after five years and growth to $73,986 after 20 years.

Originally, the entry-level salary for ambulance workers is $16.95 per hour or $33,000 a year – about $2 above the minimum wage. The starting annual salary of an EMT was $35,000, reaching a maximum of $48,000 after five years.

Before the agreement, FDNY EMS workers were paid about 40% less than firefighters and police officers. EMS 2507 Local officials said the new agreement will put EMS workers on a similar wage model to the city’s police officers and firefighters.

“Despite the applause and the accolades, New York City’s medical first responders, our city’s ‘street doctors’ have had to fight and claw for every ounce of recognition, just to be considered by the city an equal to our great police and firefighter,” Barzilay said.

The Bronx Times reported on the city’s need to bolster its paramedics roster following the launch of the Earn While You Learn Program that is currently underway at west Bronx’s Hunter Ambulance.

Elected officials touted the program, a 10-week training course for soon-to-be paramedics for anyone age 18 and older, as a recruiting tool for the city’s depleted paramedic workforce.

Reach Robbie Sequeira at rsequeira@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4599. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter @bronxtimes and Facebook @bronxtimes. 

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