AUSTIN (KXAN) — Negotiating new pay for the first time in four years, Austin’s emergency medical services department is being offered a 14 cent raise by the city.
That’s not enough, according to the Austin EMS Association, which says many medics are upset and contemplating quitting.
The association took to Twitter on Friday to express their frustration – even changing their handle to “WorthMoreThan14Cents”.
Selena Xie, president of the association, said medics are currently paid a starting wage of $19.56 per hour.
The association asked for that base pay to be increased to $27 per hour – and they believe the city’s counter offer of $19.70 per hour falls short.
“We are worth more than 14 cents,” Xie said.
Cassi Lydon, who has worked for Austin-Travis County EMS for 16 years, said times have never been this tough.
“The last two years are the hardest two years I’ve had in EMS between the storm and the pandemic,” said Lydon, a clinical specialist.
“I can’t tell you how many shifts I went home crying or had moments in the middle of a shift where I would break into tears,” she added.
Lydon said the city’s offer of a 14 cent raise is a “slap in the face.”
The City of Austin and the EMS association will meet with a mediator in May.
With the negotiations set to continue, Xie ruled out a workers’ strike, saying their frustration over pay would not halt their commitment to keeping the community safe.
In a statement provided to KXAN, a City of Austin spokesperson described their offer as an “unprecedented pay package.”
“Our total package was a 51% increase in new money compared to the last contract they approved (in 2018). The entry-level pay for Paramedics would be more than 5% higher than any other governmental entity in Texas,” the spokesperson said.
“The Union raised concerns about staffing shortages and overtime. We addressed those issues head-on, offering to hire directly into the paramedic rank. Our offer would have aided in reducing the existing vacancies. It is surprising that the union chose to hold off on prioritizing their members’ work life balance.
“Right now, EMS employees receive pay increases based on their tenure with the department. Using the current pay structure, over the next four years, the offer on the table would provide a 15% increase to 70% of the employees and a 24% pay increase to 29% of the employees. Our Paramedics are the amongst the highest paid in the nation by the end of their career.
“We value our medics and will continue to do what we can as a City to attract and retain the best Medics for our citizens. But we are unable to meet their request for a 55% base wage increase over 4 years and must remain fiscally responsible,” the statement read.