October 11, 2017

Worcester EMTs may picket

Unionized emergency medical technicians may picket as they seek a new wage structure from UMass Memorial Health Care, owner of Worcester EMS.

An informational picket by unionized emergency medical technicians who work for UMass Memorial Health Care in Worcester may be in the very near future, according to a union representative, as the system and the union are sparring over wages.

Philip Petit, national director for the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics (IAEP) said the union representing the roughly 75 employees of Worcester EMT/UMass Memorial Medical Center is concerned wage compression is leading seasoned workers to leave the organization for other jobs, resulting in lower staffing levels that could be a threat to public safety.

Petit's comments came after the IAEP issued a press release Thursday detailing the concerns.

"We're trying to deal with wages right now," Petit said on Wednesday. "It's our major point of contention right now."

Petit said Worcester EMS EMTs' starting wages hover around $20 an hour, but it varies depending on experience. Sometimes, new workers are hired for several dollars per hour more, and that puts them at a wage that exceeds longtime EMTs. As a result, seasoned employees are leaving Worcester EMS, which has been owned by UMass Memorial Health Care and was formerly a city department, said Petit. He said they're drawn by better wages or less physically demanding jobs. He added hiring new workers is a challenge, because there's a national shortage of EMTs.

Petit said the union would like UMass Memorial to implement a pay scale similar to that of a teacher's union, which is largely based on years of service. While the IAEP is not considering a strike, Petit said an informational picket, which is a step before a strike, may happen soon, though he didn't specify when.

UMass Memorial spokesman Anthony Berry declined to discuss the details of the ongoing negotiations on Wednesday.

"The Worcester EMS paramedics are a very important part of our UMass Memorial team. We greatly appreciate these first responders and respect the negotiating process, which includes a longstanding practice of not publicly discussing negotiations," Berry said in an email.


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