Austin EMS Association upset with city's 14-cent pay raise

Austin-Travis County medics are outraged over a contract offer they say is a slap in the face. The union is slamming a proposed 14-cent raise as insulting, but the city says the larger proposal is more than fair.

The Austin EMS Association says they were shocked by the offer, especially on the heels of what’s been an incredibly challenging couple of years for medics, from a deadly pandemic to a spike in crashes.

The union tweeted: "As thanks for our service, the city offered us a 14-cent raise." They even changed their twitter handle to "WorthMoreThan14Cents."

The city’s offer comes after the Union asked for a $7 raise in December.

"I first felt insulted," said paramedic Lindsey Rutledge.

"Very shocked at how low the offer was," said Austin EMS Association president Selena Xie.

A 14-cent raise would bring the starting wage for medics to $19.76 an hour in the first year of the proposed contract.

"With inflation hovering between 7 and 8 percent, their offer was one percent. So that’s actually a pay cut if you think about it," said Xie.

But the city points out that over four years the contract actually reflects a 15% increase for 70% of EMS employees, and a 24% increase for nearly everyone else.

In a statement, a city spokesperson said in part: "The City of Austin offered an unprecedented pay package to the union. It’s unfortunate the union is refusing to provide a counter-offer."

"We did not refuse to provide a counter-offer," said Xie. "They waited five months. We’re asking them to wait a week or two. Who’s being unfair?"

Xie added that while the offer may be unprecedented, it lags way behind the $30 Austin police officers start at and isn’t competitive with other industries.

"You can work at McDonald’s and make 22 dollars an hour," said Xie.

Austin-Travis County EMS is already 25% short-staffed, leading to extra overtime and ambulances out of service.

"This offer is actually dangerous to the community because many medics have told me that they’re thinking about quitting," said Xie.

"I’m a multi-generational Austinite, and I always thought I would be able to retire with Austin-Travis County EMS, and it just doesn’t look like something I’m going to be able to do anymore," said Rutledge.

Rutledge has been with ATCEMS for six years. She already had to move out of town because of housing prices. Now, she says something’s gotta give.

"But if it doesn’t, it has been a talk with me and my husband. It’s going to have to be something else. We’re worth way more than that," said Rutledge.

The statement from the city goes on to say: "We value our medics and will continue to do what we can as a City to attract and retain the best Medics for our citizens."

Xie says the union is going to work to come up with a "meaningful counter-offer", and hopes to present that to the city in the next few weeks.
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