Austin EMS Association makes argument for starting salary of $ 27 an hour

Representatives from the city and the Austin EMS Association discussed a pay rise on the third day of negotiations (Darcy Sprague, Community Impact Newspaper)

The Austin EMS Association made its case for a substantial salary increase for emergency physicians at its third meeting with the city.

The meetings began on November 30 and are the first in a series that the city will follow to negotiate contracts with its three branches of emergency services – emergency services, police and fire.

The association is asking the city to increase the starting salary for the department to $ 27, an increase of about 42% from the current starting salary of just over $ 19.

Selena Xie, president of the Austin EMS Association, said it was important for the city to address EMS staff salaries and benefits, as the department struggles to keep up with Austin’s growing population.

She said the department had around 120 vacant positions, which has grown steadily since at least 2018, when the department had 43.

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“We have to make sure that we have the staff available to do the job that we need to do. Salaries and benefits are one of the ways we can make this true, ”Xie said.

She said the association receives fewer applicants and fewer people attend cadet courses.

At the same time, she said more people are leaving the organization than they are joining. At least 8% of doctors surveyed by the department said they plan to leave within the year. At least 20% plan to leave within the next three years, according to Xie’s presentation.

Xie said there are three main reasons for this: the rising cost of living and the availability of other better paying jobs; more dangerous and stressful working conditions created during the pandemic; and concerns raised in the wake of the deadly winter storm in February that emergency weather situations will occur more frequently and that the city is not prepared to deal with them.

For his first point, Xie said the influx of tech companies to the region is pushing up house prices and other jobs, ranging from Amazon to Capital Metro, offer higher wages to compete with employees.

She said that based on current salary, Austin-Travis County doctors are considered low-income people, those earning less than 50% of median family income, for up to seven years after entering. the Department. This time frame is extended if the doctors have children, which increases the amount of money needed to reach the median family income.

She said doctors need to be able to get to any medical post in the city in under two hours when on duty, but housing prices are pushing doctors further. Xie and some of the medics present said they lived in areas such as Kileen, New Braunfels and eastern Bastrop County.

Xie’s second point highlighted how much the work of doctors has changed during the pandemic. While she acknowledged the changes are not unique to Austin, she said wages, which are expected to rise 1% in 2021 to starting salary levels, have not kept pace with the increasing stress.

Finally, she highlighted the winter storm of 2021. She said that while it could be considered an isolated incident, she and other members of the ministry believe that climate change emergencies will continue to occur. She said the conditions doctors faced during the storm, such as having to drive in dangerous situations and not having access to meals or toilets, are of great concern to the number of future emergencies.

“We really appreciate what you normally do. We appreciate the work you are doing during the pandemic. We appreciate the work you do during the storm, ”said Deven Desai, City of Austin Labor Relations Manager.

The two sides have not discussed the proposed starting salary or any other details on salary or benefits negotiations. Discussions will resume in the new year.

“These are important issues, and the city looks forward to exploring them with the union at the bargaining table over the next few weeks,” a city spokesperson said.

Andrew B. Reiter