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Union leaders of EMS first responders have for years called for the city to negotiate contracts that include raises for members to allow them to reach pay parity with the city’s other first responders.
And now Oren Barzilay, president of DC 37 Local 2507 that represents EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors, is highlighting how, according to him, his members' pay unfavorably compares with that of another group of workers who spend most of their time traveling through New York’s crowded streets.
Under a new city rule announced earlier this month, app-based delivery workers will get a first-of-its-kind $17.96 minimum wage that will rise to nearly $20 by April 2025, putting them in line to make more than an entry-level FDNY EMT, much to Barzilay’s irritation. The recently reelected union leader last week penned a letter to Mayor Eric Adams to protest the coming pay disparity, writing that “the insufficient and lower wage of FDNY EMS members sticks out like a sore thumb.”
“Currently, FDNY EMTs saving lives every day, start at roughly $18.94 an hour, less than your new plan for fast food delivery drivers,” the letter continues. “Is the message that the city government values speedy delivery of bagels, fast food, and pizza, more than its medical professionals saving lives of other New Yorkers?”
Adding to Barzilay’s frustration is that Adams recently announced new contracts with most other unions representing first responders, including the Police Benevolent Association, the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Uniformed Fire Officers Association while negotiations with the two EMS unions haven’t even begun.
Starting pay is for an EMT is $39,386 while for cops it’s $55,190 and for firefighters, it’s $52,420.
The union cites the pay disparity and the grueling pace of work for why 30 percent of EMTs and paramedics leave after three years and 50 percent quit after five years. “Unless something is done, without further red tape and foot dragging, this brain drain will only get worse,” Barzilay wrote.
‘We need what we need’
In 2021, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recommended that the city rectify EMS’s massive salary gaps, saying that “any difference in duties between the EMS first responders and firefighters fails to explain the pronounced gap in wages and benefits.” The commission also concluded the city “discriminated against current and former First Responders of the FDNY’s EMS ... based on race and sex,” a determination the EMS unions used to file a class-action lawsuit against the FDNY and the city last year.
According to the suit, EMS responded to more than 80 percent of the city’s emergency calls in 2019 but received only 16 percent of the FDNY’s budget. Anthony Almojera, vice president of Local 3621, which represents uniformed EMS officers, told The Chief that he’s “happy” the delivery workers received what they deserved, it was high time his members got their due.
“They got what they need, we need what we need; pay parity and benefit parity with police and firefighters,” he said. Almojera noted that during his campaign for mayor, Adams promised that he would rectify pay parity issues that EMS workers have been complaining about for decades.
When Local 2507 endorsed Adams in his mayoral primary in June 2021, the soon-to-be mayor said that “Our EMTs, paramedics, and fire inspectors deserve our city’s thanks and respect, but for years they have been shamefully denied basic pay equity. As mayor, I will not stand for discrimination against workers, especially not the women and men who have put their lives at risk to save ours day after day.”
City Hall did not reply to a request for a response to Barzilay’s letter.
Almojera and Barzilay now say Adams should put his money where his mouth is. “The mayor could fix EMS pay parity tomorrow,” Almojera said.
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