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City, EMS reach tentative pact on wages

Thursday, June 25, 2009 by Austin Monitor

City Manager Marc Ott said Wednesday that the city’s bargaining team had reached a tentative agreement with representatives from the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) employees union that would save the city around $750,000 for the upcoming fiscal year. Members of the union must ratify the agreement before it becomes effective.


Ott said the agreement would include leaving a 2. 75 percent scheduled pay raise for 2010 on the table. In return, the agreement would give all EMS employees a 3 percent pay raise in the following three years—2011, 2012 and 2013. The agreement would extend the contract for one additional year, which is optional in the current contract.


Steve Stewart, president of the Austin/Travis County EMS Employees Association, confirmed the broad outlines of the agreement Wednesday night, noting that he and other negotiators would begin informing the union’s membership about the possible agreement today. He said he was not certain exactly how long it would take the union to vote on the new contract, but it might be within two weeks.


I want to make sure they understand what they’re voting on. They have to make a choice . . . my belief is that we should accept it,” Stewart said.


Ott said one important aspect of the agreement would “provide soft pay, relative to EMS officers that receive specific certification in an area.” He said that would include “some sort of monthly pay benefit,” costing taxpayers about $150,000. However, he said that benefit would not be incorporated in the base pay so it doesn’t have the compounding impact of the yearly pay raises.


Stewart said several times during the conversation with In Fact Daily, “I think it’s the right thing to do.” However, he added, “it’s not something to be real happy about, but I think it’s the right thing. I don’t want them to cut our department any more.”


He said EMS has not gotten a new ambulance in more than two years, despite increased demands. “I hope they’re willing to put it back in and maintain the level of service that we’re providing right now . . . I hope the Council decides to spend that money on ambulances,” Stewart said. Each unit costs about $600,000 per year.


The unions for both EMS and Austin Police Association voted two weeks ago to reopen contract negotiations with the city in order to help resolve the current $30-$43 million shortfall. Negotiations continue between the APA and city management, according to Ott and Mayor Lee Leffingwell.


Leffingwell said regardless of the outcome of the negotiations between the police union and city management, “I will not be in favor of postponing the cadet class.”

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