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Dispute over new position delays EMS contract talks

Unions, city have yet to meet


When Mayor Eric Adams stood alongside the presidents of 11 unions representing most of the city’s uniformed employees last week to announce a tentative contract covering 32,000 workers, he said the agreement proved his administration was “supporting the working people who keep our city safe and clean.” 

But notably absent from the June 15 announcement at City Hall was the leadership of two DC 37 locals representing the FDNY EMTs, paramedics, fire inspectors and EMS officers.  

Negotiations between the city and the two locals which together represent around 4,500 uniformed civil servants haven’t even begun, Renee Campion, commissioner of the Office of Labor Relations, said at last week’s announcement. “They haven’t put in a request to bargain yet for the new round of bargaining,” Campion later told The Chief. 

Vincent Variale, the president of DC 37 Local 3621, which represents EMS Officers, said the two unions haven’t put in a request to bargain because they never reached a deal with the city over outstanding provisions in their last contract, voted on by membership in 2021. “It’s hard to move forward to get a new contract when you haven’t resolved issues from the last contract yet,” he said.  

Variale told The Chief that what’s at issue is a side letter attached to that contract outlining the creation of a new position titled “Sergeant-EMS.” He said the details of the position, including pay and job responsibilities, would be finalized at future negotiating sessions. But representatives from Local 3621 didn’t meet with OLR officials to discuss those terms until January of this year, more than six months after that contract expired.  

‘Not supposed to work this way’ 

And after two months of delay, the two sides held another, equally unproductive, meeting in April that ended, according to Variale, with the city telling the union that it would unilaterally move forward with creating the new position, despite the lack of a final agreement with the union. In May, the city opened applications for an August 23 promotional exam to the “Sergeant-EMS,” position, a title the city is also labeling “Supervising Emergency Medical Service Specialist.” 

“It’s not supposed to work this way,” Variale said. “This violates New York State civil service law, it violates our contract and it’s bad faith bargaining.” What’s adding to his frustration, Variale said, is that the position will pay $15,000 less than the EMS lieutenant position already in place, which he argued has a similar job description to that for the new sergeant title.   

Variale said he plans to file a grievance with the Office of Collective Bargaining. He would like an arbitrator to step in to resolve the dispute but said he is also considering litigation.

Campion pushed back. 

“The parties agreed to support the creation of this title almost two years ago and despite the City agreeing to use the salary they proposed, the union refused to move forward,” the labor commissioner said in a text message Tuesday. “The City will not further delay the creation of this important title due to unrelated other issues which should be discussed separately, but remains available to bargain over the salary and savings from this new title.” 

Unions split on bargaining  

But Oren Barzilay, president of Local 2507 that represents EMTs, paramedics and fire inspectors, said he’s happy to negotiate for a new contract, and has been trying to get DC 37 to send in bargaining requests to Campion’s office for several months.  

“Our people need to see a raise,” Barzilay said Monday. “I don’t want [the dispute over a new position] to hold us back from negotiating at the bargaining table and getting our members their money.”  

Before he can negotiate a new contract, though, Barzilay needs approval from his parent union, DC37, a sanction he’s been seeking since early April when the Police Benevolent Association reached a tentative agreement with the city. His initial request was rebuffed by DC37, Barzilay said, but the union leader filed another appeal last week, which DC37 accepted. He said he expected to begin discussions on bargaining priorities soon.  

But Local 2507 and Local 3621 are in the same bargaining unit and together negotiate with the city for a unified contract covering both their memberships. Even if Barzilay wants to negotiate with the city, he could be hindered by Variale's ongoing dispute with the city’s labor officials.  (After publication, Barzilay said that his union controls a majority of the votes in the bargaining unit and intends to move forward with negotiating.)

Variale, though, doesn’t  intend to meet with OLR on a new deal until that dispute is resolved. “The city hasn’t finished negotiating our old contract so how can we get a new one?” he said.



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  • Very unfortunate that one Union is seeking to complete their comtract request of the past and another is trying establish a contract now for his members who right fully deserve a just contract. They are always undermined at negations by the above or by Management that loves keeping mostly minority union in limbo and receive cents and call it it a victory. City / govt rarely ever deal fairly to adequate responsible compensation to employees. A flat line contract will come and the news will hype it all up but give reality sets in and you get cents

    Wednesday, June 21, 2023 Report this