Detroit seeks to give EMTs 4% raises

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 4 percent raise is in store for the city’s emergency medical technicians and paramedics, the largest increase in its 45-year history, officials said Wednesday.

Detroit EMS Chief Sean Larkin and Mayor Mike Duggan come together Wednesday to announce 4 percent raises for EMTs and paramedics.

Mayor Mike Duggan unveiled the three-year collective bargaining agreement amendment alongside Fire Commissioner Eric Jones and fire union officials outside St. John Hospital on Moross.

The agreement, which includes the across-the-board raises, was ratified Monday by EMS members and approved Tuesday by Detroit’s city council.

Under the new contract, the city will provide the 4 percent raise for all 213 EMS Division field staff. The agreement also includes an attendance incentive program that kicks in Jan. 1, 2018, officials announced.

With the addition of the EMTs, all Detroit public safety unions have now received 4 percent pay raises in the last two years.

“When we came out of bankruptcy, we recognized that our police, fire and EMS were paid substantially below the surrounding suburban communities,” Duggan said. “We didn’t think that was right. We made a commitment to raise them up as the city’s economics improved.”

The cost of the new contract — approximately $800,000 per year — is being paid for through cost savings in the department, officials said.

The Detroit Fire Department previously operated a separate medical first responder service. But with the recent training of firefighters as medical first responders, the other units were eliminated, saving the city about $2.5 million. Some of the savings are being used to fund the EMS pay raises, officials said.

“We can never put a price tag on the burden we all carry as emergency responders,” Detroit EMS Chief Sean Larkins said. “The men and women of EMS in the city of Detroit do this every day, without regard to their own personal health, safety and mental well-being. Day in and day out.”

The contract improvements for the EMTs and paramedics come after the city announced a pay raise last July for all firefighters licensed as medical first responders.

The 4 percent across-the-board wage increase was provided in addition to 2.5 percent raises previously negotiated for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Firefighters also are slated to get 3 percent raises in 2019 and 2020.

The firefighter raises followed a bump for the Detroit Police Department.

The EMS contract originally was not set to expire until the end of 2018, but the city opened it up to add the wage increase, mirroring what was done for police and firefighter contracts. The new contract runs through the end of June 2020.

The amended EMS agreement comes seven months after members joined with firefighters and became members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association.

DFFA President Mike Nevin said Wednesday the adjustment is “nowhere near fair or even” but it does prove the city’s commitment to public safety workers.

“It’s the largest economic adjustment EMS division has ever had,” he said.

Duggan said the starting wage for EMTs is about $19.25 per hour. With this raise and the additional 2 percent they will get in July, it’ll be just over $20 per hour. The top wage, he said, will move from around $22 per hour to $23.

As another component of the agreement, eligible employees will be rewarded quarterly with additional compensation based on attendance. Absenteeism for EMTs is about 10 percent per week, officials said.

Nevin on Wednesday said EMS has 21, two-member units and five peak units. They respond to an average of 360 runs a day.

Last year, the EMS division responded to more than 132,000 emergency medical runs, up from about 117,000 in 2014, officials said. During that time, the average EMS response time for priority medical runs has been reduced from nearly 20 minutes to eight minutes.

The city’s state-appointed Financial Review Commission must sign off on Detroit’s collective bargaining agreements. The commission is set to consider and vote on the contract before Aug. 1, officials said.