In a unanimous vote, the City Council May 28 backed pay parity for Emergency Medical Technicians, who at top salary make about $35,000 less than cops and Firefighters.
"EMS personnel have worked so hard even before this pandemic, but they have not been paid fairly," Council Speaker Corey Johnson stated before the vote. "Despite that they remained on the front lines meeting the medical needs of countless New Yorkers throughout the COVID-pandemic. We owe them fair pay for this work now more than ever."
Sue Alleging Pay Bias
The EMS unions, while early in contract talks with Labor Commissioner Renee Campion, are suing the city for race- and gender-based pay discrimination, noting their rank and files are primarily made up of people of color and women whose pay is far less than employees of the other uniformed services. The most-commonly cited disparity is that after 5½ years, maximum EMT pay is $50,604, compared to a Firefighter maximum of $85,292.
"This administration has neglected these brave public servants by paying them a fraction of what their overwhelmingly white, male firefighting counterparts earn, and—until recently—diminished the value of their life-saving work on behalf of eight million New Yorkers," said I. Daneek Miller, chair of the Council's Labor Committee, the bill's prime sponsor.
He pointed out that four EMS workers have died during the pandemic and about 25 percent of that workforce was sidelined for weeks with the coronavirus, saying they "deserve more than the Mayor's platitudes."
Republican Council Member Joseph Borelli, who chairs the Fire and Emergency Management Committee, stated it was "one of the worst parts" of his job "to look people in the eye who are EMTs....and explain to them why they can't afford to work an honest job for the City of New York" while making "less than the starting salaries of other city employees."
Council Member Vanessa Gibson, who represents the Bronx, dedicated her vote to the memory of FDNY EMT Yadira Arroyo, a single mother of five, who was working overtime when she was murdered in March 2017.
Not Binding on Mayor
The Council's action cannot force Mayor de Blasio to grant pay parity, something he has consistently resisted doing, asserting that EMS work "is different."
In the past, the de Blasio administration has estimated that providing parity for EMS would cost the city $450 million annually. In his latest revenue projections, which reflect COVID-19's impact on the city economy, Mr. de Blasio has said a $9-billion budget deficit must be closed.
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