AUSTIN (KXAN) — The people who show up when you dial call 911 are asking the City of Austin for more money.
The Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Association came back to negotiations Tuesday with a new compromise that the city will review.
Alyssa Magnum has worked with Austin-Travis County EMS since 2015.
During the Austin winter storm, she kept coming to the rescue and pushed through the COVID-19 pandemic on scorching hot summer days.
“I would throw up afterward because it was so hot and you can’t touch your face, you can’t do anything,” Magnum said. “So after each call, we’d have to go back and shower.”
Negotiating new pay for the first time in four years, the City of Austin recently offered entry-level EMTs a 14-cent raise.
“It’s embarrassing,” Magnum said. “It’s a disgrace and it makes me so angry.”
Yet, the city says the lowest-paid employee would receive a 39-cent hourly raise, as others would experience 5%, 7% and even 15% hikes.
Nevertheless, Magnum decided to call it quits on her career last week, taking a new job as a luxury travel agent instead.
“It just got to the point where I want to be able to afford a house,” Magnum said. “I don’t want to live paycheck to paycheck anymore.”
Contracts for the city’s three public safety unions expire in the fall, as the Austin City Council ultimately must approve any pay deal.
“I think it’s critical to pay our EMS workers a competitive salary,” city council member Natasha Harper-Madison said. “They are a part of the system that draws people to Austin.”
Yet Harper-Madison believes the tough balance is due to state limits on property tax revenue.
“We’re all recognizing that we are at the mercy of really tight restrictions that the state has put on us,” she said.
A City of Austin spokesperson, in a statement provided to KXAN said the following:
“We are hopeful these negotiations will result in a contract that will work for everyone. We appreciate that these processes take time. The topics negotiated are critical to the short- and long-term stability and well-being for our employees and the fiscal responsibility we owe to our taxpayers.”
This comes at a time when ATCEMS is currently short of about 25% of its sworn employee positions.
“That needs to change because one day you’re going to call 911 and you’re not going to have an ambulance there to help you,” Magnum concluded.
The City of Austin and the Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services Association will continue their wage negotiations on May 10.
Without an agreement, both parties will meet with a federal mediator later this month.