New contract for Austin EMS, firefighters; police negotiations stall

The City of Austin and the Austin EMS Association signed a new labor contract agreement on Thursday.

Negotiations have taken place for about five months, but association president Selena Xie sees it as a two-year-long process.

"Our long-term contract expired in 2021, and so we ended up negotiating a short-term contract for just one year," said Xie. "We called it a stopgap contract while we wanted to go back to our teams and really reevaluate what we needed for a long-term contract."

Under the new four-year contract, current employees will see at minimum a 4% salary increase. Salaries will also increase for entry-level medics and long-term employees to help recruitment and retention.

"I hope that having a four-year contract will really provide some stability and some security, knowing that there will be raises in the future and also a path of where we hope to go in the future as well," said Xie.

"They were very transparent, it was open, very candid conversations," said Bruce Mills, interim assistant city manager. "This is sometimes a very tense business, but it never came to being a tense conversation. I’m very proud of that, and I’m very proud of the outcome."

As of Friday, Austin firefighters also have a new contract after an arbitration panel got involved. 

It's essentially the same agreement tentatively approved by the City and AFA in August, but it never went to firefighters for a vote.

The two-year contract includes base wage increases of 4% each year as well as special stipends for fighters in AFD’s Wildfire Battalion, Arson Division, and Dispatch Division.

However, the union president said it's not enough to keep up with the cost of living. Bob Nicks said that was a promise made by the City during contract negotiations back in 2017 - a promise that is now broken.

"That was the condition in which we did that, (we said) we're willing to take a smaller pay raise, but you need to keep us at the cost of living. And we wrote that in the contract," said Nicks. "I don't want to blame council, I don't want to blame the arbitrators, but the City could have kept their promises and done a lot better."


In a statement, Interim Assistant City Manager Bruce Mills, said, "We hope this arbitration award will allow us to move forward positively with our firefighters and will position the City and the AFA to resolve their next labor contract through the collective bargaining process rather than contested interest arbitration."

"I think the outcome got a fair contract with firefighters," said Mills when asked about it on Thursday. "I want firefighters to be well treated, well respected and well compensated."

Nicks said one good thing to come out of the new contract is the potential for a reduced workload. Firefighters’ workweek will be shortened by one hour with the potential for that amount to increase.

"We’re glad that the contract is done," said Nicks. "It did stop some of the bleeding, but it did not make up for past promises broken."

Contract negotiations for Austin police are still at a standstill after the current contract expired earlier this year.

"We are eager to get back to negotiations at some point. Of course, we know that Prop 8 passed. And so there are some hurdles that the police association is going to have to deal with and decide how they want to get over," said Mills on Thursday. "Please, let's come back to the table and talk. We're interested in negotiating for the points that we can agree on and even saving the more difficult ones for later if need be."

FOX 7 reached out to APA and is waiting to hear back.