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EMS union may join police in foregoing 2010 pay raise

Friday, June 12, 2009 by Charles Boisseau

Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services employees are considering joining Austin police officers in renegotiating a pay raise as the city grapples with the city’s projected budget shortfall in the coming year.


EMS workers are operating under a three-year labor contract that is supposed to give employees a 2.75 percent pay increase in fiscal year 2010, an increase of $1.4 million, said Steve Stewart, president of the 280-member Austin Travis County EMS Employee Association, which represents most area EMS workers.


The association’s board is expected to meet Friday morning to discuss whether to negotiate with the city over giving up some or part of the pay increases.


“EMS has always done what is best for the citizens of the City of Austin,” Stewart said.


If the EMS workers go along they would follow the Austin Police Association, which on Thursday morning delivered a letter to City Manager Marc Ott stating that “given the gravity of upcoming budget proposals” it would consider amending its labor contract.


City budget planners are forecasting a $30 million to $43 million shortfall next year. City staffers have proposed a menu of 245 cost-cutting measures for City Council to consider, including delaying the start of a class to train about 100 police cadets.


Vincent said keeping the cadet class was the key reason the police officers would be willing to defer or give up the pay raises next fiscal year. Under a three-year contract OK’d in October 2008, Austin’s 1,500-member police force also is slated to receive a 2.75 percent increase in the fiscal year starting October 1, amounting to about $5 million.


“We’re emphasizing that we’re going to fight for the cadet class whether we reach an agreement over our pay contract or not,” Wayne Vincent, president of the Austin Police Association, said outside City Council chambers.


Mayor-elect Lee Leffingwell praised the police officers for “their willingness to renegotiate the FY 2010 pay raise,” which he noted was nearly identical to the cost of the $5 million cadet class.


Austin firefighters are not operating under the same type of labor contracts as police and EMS workers. That’s because the members of the about 1,000-member Austin Firefighters Association failed to ratify a union contract that would have included similar pay raises.

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