Two weeks ago, when asked by a reporter would the Mayor consider fixing the pay disparity in the EMS side of the Fire Department since they are paid so much less than the fire side, Mayor de Blasio said, “the work is different.” This was his way of defending the large disparity in pay and benefits among EMTs and paramedics who are first responders serving the people of New York City.
Needless to say, our colleagues and we are deeply disappointed in the Mayor’s remarks, and in the way we have been treated.
Such tone-deaf remarks perpetuate implicit biases EMS workers have faced for decades.
While of course each agency is different, the emergency services of New York City are composed of an intricate web of highly trained first responders whose duties often overlap, and who provide equally important and inter-related life saving services to New Yorkers. The most noticeable “difference”, which it seems the Mayor is unaware of, is that the EMS Bureau is the most diverse group of emergency service members, consisting of predominately of color members and including the largest percentage of women in emergency services.
While we are unfortunately treated and viewed as “different” by this administration, we answer the call just like every other emergency service member.
We have been told that we are not worth a comparable salary to others who serve this city because we are EMS and not a firefighter, police officer or sanitation worker. The work of all these agencies are vital to this city. We all serve one purpose: to save, protect and care for the people of this city.
What the Mayor did get right is that the way the EMS is treated different, even when responding shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in other emergency services.
Every day, we are called to respond to many different types of emergencies, along with members of the NYPD and FDNY. We do not know what we are walking into or what may be on the other side of the door. Often times we respond to medical emergencies that quickly turn violent or unsafe and have no way to protect ourselves. We continuously have new responsibilities added to our job titles to better care for our patients without any additional compensation.
Every three years, we are expected to refresh our certifications in order to maintain our jobs. Our schedules are given to us and often we are mandated to work more than our scheduled tour due to our current staffing shortage. This past year alone, FDNY EMS lost approximately 900 EMTs and paramedics to the firefighter “promotion”, most left due to the pay difference.
A top paid EMT makes $50,000/yr, while other uniformed work with five years of experience earn significantly more. We are expected to sit in an ambulance on street corners for anywhere between 8-16 hours with no dedicated meal break or bathroom breaks. Left open to any and all types of weather, threats and vulnerability.
With the recent polarized climate in our country and threats against the City, EMS has become part of the Counter-Terrorism Task Force in New York City. We are given military grade ballistic gear (aside from our personal issued ballistic vests and helmets) and told to respond to active shooter scenarios with the NYPD, once again unarmed and vulnerable to harm and danger.
We respond to every emergency in New York City: medical emergencies, rescue jobs, confined space rescue, train derailments, fires, car accidents, emotionally disturbed patients, and hazmat jobs, to name a few. While we train vigorously to respond effectively to these emergencies, we are still left without parity to other first responders who we stand beside.
It does not go unnoticed that the EMS is the most diverse emergency workface, made up of mostly non-white and a large portion of female service members. The bias we experience as a result, which includes diminishing our value and compensation, unfairly impacts all EMS workers and the Bureau at large.
Now we are asking you to stand with us in our fight for equality and parity as First Responders in New York City.