Short-Term Contract Locks In Big Wage Gains for EMS

Entry-level EMTs will get $19.25 an hour

courtesy of Travis County

After nine months of talks, the city and the Austin Emer­gency Medical Services Association have reached an agreement on a pay and benefits proposal to be included in a new labor contract for medics at Austin-Travis County EMS.

Currently, entry-level emergency medical technicians (EMTs) earn $19.25 per hour; the new contract will increase that to $22 per hour, the base wage to be offered to all other city employees as soon as city budgets allow. AEMSA leadership kicked off negotiations with a call for starting pay of $27, which they say would keep the agency competitive with private ambulance companies in the area. That would amount to a 40% wage increase in a single contract, which would be a hard sell at any time. It's especially so when the city, which does not expect to be as flush with cash in future years as it is now, is also in talks with the police and firefighter unions.

Austin EMS paramedics – a higher rank than EMT – will also see a more-than-10% pay bump, increasing from $26.67 per hour to $30. Addressing paramedic pay compression was a critical requirement for the contract for many medics. With a workforce demoralized by two years of pandemic working conditions and years of ineffectual leadership, front-line employees feared that failing to increase paramedic pay would result in more of the agency's skilled employees departing for the private sector. Currently, 23% of all positions at Austin EMS are vacant; 58% of those are paramedic positions.

All other EMS employees will get at least a 4% pay increase (the cost of living adjustment for all city employees in the just-adopted 2023 budget). The EMS pay proposal comes with a $4.2 million price tag – a relatively small figure, because the city and AEMSA are only agreeing to a one-year contract for the fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, 2023.

Typically, the city's public safety union contracts last four years. But the shortened contract allowed AEMSA to secure the increased wages for EMTs and paramedics – easily the most pressing issue among front-line medics – without locking in three years without wage increases to follow. Instead, the union hopes to return to the table in a year and work out more favorable terms. City Council is expected to vote on the agreement with AEMSA at the Sept. 1 meeting; AEMSA members will begin voting to ratify the agreement today, Aug. 25, through Monday, Aug. 29.

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Austin Emergency Medical Services Association, Austin-Travis County EMS

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