Emergency medical technicians have stressful and risky jobs, but they save a countless number of lives every year for relatively little financial reward. In New York City, entry-level fire department EMTs are paid approximately $16 an hour, which is only slightly above the city’s hourly minimum wage, although a representative of Mayor Bill de Blasio believes that the actual figure is a bit higher. The unions that represent them have stated that this situation needs to be significantly improved.
On Tuesday, Feb. 18, negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement commenced between the city and the EMT union representatives. The president of one of the fire department unions say that new EMT workers can barely make ends meet, given the high cost of living as well as the burden of city and state income taxes. As a result, he said, many of them have to look for positions in other occupations that pay more, and when they find them they leave for those better opportunities.
This is reflected in the lack of long-term experience in the EMT staff as a whole. Sources have stated that around two-thirds of the technicians have been with the fire department for less than three years, and 75% for fewer than five years. According to available data, in 2019 New York City EMTs averaged more than 4,000 calls each day, many of which involved heart attacks and other potentially fatal events.
Emergency medical technicians not only provide quick responses but they can also save the lives of people who have been critically injured. It is hopeful that the union representation of those in New York City will be able to negotiate a significantly higher wage.