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NYC council committee calls for higher pay for FDNY EMS

Union leaders disagreed with the fire commissioner’s response that it all comes down to collective bargaining

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A New York City Council committee has called for EMS providers to receive higher pay, but FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said his hands are tied.

Photo/alanbatt, Pixabay

Thomas Tracy
New York Daily News

NEW YORK — A city council committee overseeing the FDNY budget wants to see higher pay for the city’s Emergency Medical Technicians and paramedics, but the city Fire Commissioner said the buck doesn’t stop with him — it falls to city and union negotiators to solve the problem at the bargaining table, he said Friday.

During a virtual hearing of the council’s Committee on Fire and Emergency Management, Commissioner Daniel Nigro agreed that EMS should be better compensated for their efforts and sacrifices, but he’s not in charge of approving pay increases.

“I personally believe that they are not compensated as they should,” Nigro said about EMS receiving better wages. “But we don’t control the process. The negotiations are going on now with union leadership and we wish them well.

“We realize they are had working dedicated people who do not receive the compensation they should for this work,” Nigro said.

Committee Chair Councilman Joseph Borelli said he would like to see the city’s EMTs and paramedics get a bump in pay, since their current salary pales in comparison to those in nearby cities.

“Adjacent cities like Philadelphia have starting salaries of $57,000. That’s 35% more than an FDNY EMT’s starting salary,” Borelli (R- Staten Island) said abut the wage discrepancy. “What can we do to make this happen?”

The starting salary for an EMT is $35,254, which cam go up to $50,000 in five years. In comparison, an FDNY member after five years on the job can makes more than $100,000 annually with overtime and holiday pay.

Earlier this week, EMS marked 25 years after its merger with FDNY.

Oren Barzilay, president of EMS union local 2507, disagreed with Nigro’s assessment of the pay situation during his testimony at the council hearing.

“Every so often we hear the mayor’s office and the department use the excuse that our wages are so far apart because of collective bargaining, making it seem that we don know how to bargain for our members or suggesting that we don’t know how to bargain,” Barzilay said. “The fact is it’s the city that’s fighting us back. It’s the city that pushes back.

“It doesn’t matter how many times we demand equality and fairness, we’re not being heard,” he said. “We need to stop with this collective bargaining excuse for the disparity of pay.”

Nigro repeatedly hailed EMS at the committee hearing, particularly over the last year for being the “first people in the city to confront” the COVID-19 virus.

During the height of the pandemic, EMS members had the “busiest days in their history” responding to 6,500 medical emergencies a day, Nigro said.

“When confronted with one of the most challenging public health emergencies, they met the challenge head on,” the commissioner said.

Looking ahead toward the end of the pandemic, Nigro said that the department has opened up five vaccination sites across the city and have given out 60,000 COVID-19 vaccinations as of Wednesday. The vaccinations include 13,500 first doses to FDNY members and 9,500 second doses.

An additional 25,000 first doses and 12,000 second doses have been given to eligible employees of other city agencies, Nigro said.

So far, 14 FDNY members have died of COVID related issues during the pandemic, Nigro said.


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