Pay raise agreement for Detroit firefighters, EMTs heads to council for approval

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News
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Detroit — Raises and a reduced workweek are in motion for the city's firefighters and emergency medical technicians after city and labor officials reached an agreement Friday.

The deal, which is headed to the City Council for a vote, puts the 1,118 firefighters and emergency medical technicians that are members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association under one, five-year contract.

Mayor Mike Duggan, Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones and DFFA President Thomas Gehart on Friday announced the agreement that provides a 2% to 4% pay increase for all members and a shortened workweek from 49 hours to 42 hours, the city said in a press release.

Detroit Fire Department Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones, right, speaks during a press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, in Detroit, March 2, 2021.

It provides a 3% annual raise for DFFA employees, a 4% increase for firefighter/EMT classifications, a 2% increase for employees possessing a paramedic license, and a 1% increase for employees with an EMT license.

Union members ratified the contract by a vote of 502-94. The contract now goes to the Detroit City Council for approval. The current DFFA contract expired on June 30, 2020. The new tentative contract, once approved, goes into immediate effect and expires on June 30, 2026.

Duggan said the city and union reached the agreement to ensure that emergency personnel are recognized for their sacrifice and contributions.

“This contract will allow us to build on the progress we have made in improving our response time and helping our employees cope with high-demand jobs," he said in the release.

Under the contract, DFFA members are offered EMT training by the city and training is built into the work schedule without affecting members’ availability to respond to emergencies.

As of Friday, 779 firefighters at 33 fire companies are taking medical runs. 

EMS does 58,000 ambulance runs each year, while firefighters make 25,000 fire runs. Firefighters also make 15,000 medical runs per year as medical first responders.

The raises, Duggan said, compensate for the additional work.

In March, Duggan vowed the city will provide mental health services for firefighters who have endured additional strain in recent years after being cross-trained as medical first responders. The pledge came after two suspected drunken driving incidents involving fire department staff in a single week, one in which a sergeant crashed a department vehicle.

Detroit started its medical first responder program in 2014 to help decrease EMS response time. Before then, Detroit was one of the only major fire departments in the country without cross-trained firefighters. Detroit deployed its medical first responder companies over a two-and-a-half-year transition.

Then, Detroit’s EMS response time was between 16 and 18 minutes; as of Friday, it is in line with the national average of 8 minutes, as firefighters have received medical first responder training, according to the city.

Under the contract, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics will man fire apparatus and ambulances. It also provides EMT personnel the opportunity to become firefighters.

“We worked collaboratively with the DFFA to improve medical and fire services for the residents of Detroit,” Jones said in the release. “Simultaneously, we structured the contract to improve the health and well-being of our employees.”

Twitter: @SarahRahal_

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