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Austin EMS Association enters second week of contract negotiations with city

The Austin EMS union said they are hoping for hazard pay, increased pay and reduced mandatory overtime.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, the Austin EMS union will be back in the negotiation room for a second week, face to face with City leaders, hoping they can agree on providing hazard pay, increase pay, and reduce mandatory overtime. 

Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie said she hopes the union and the City can agree within the first few months of 2022. Their contract ends in September 2022.

Xie said historically low staffing levels and uncompetitive pay rates are hurting the department.

"We do an annual workforce survey and we found such high levels of anxiety, depression and a lot of people thinking about leaving," said Xie. 

Xie said 51 medics lefts this year.

"I don't think I even remember seeing a higher number, at least in the last five years," she said.

Xie said the mandatory double-overtime they've grown accustomed to because of their staffing shortage is just one of the problems. Xie said they also do not receive hazard pay, unlike other city employees.

"We definitely have people quit over the issue," said Xie. "We've had one mom, who was a new mom, does not have any family in town and was being asked almost every other weekend to come into work. At this time, child care is actually more expensive than the amount of money she makes."

Xie said Austin-Travis County medics starting pay is $19 an hour. She said, according to their data, 30% of their medics are low-income in Austin.

"If you want to work for Amazon, even if you want to work for the City of Austin in other EMT positions, they all start at least $25 an hour," she said.

She said that uncompetitive pay is pushing applicants away. Their current cadet class of 16 is far less than the 30 spots that were available.

"Our medics want to make sure that we are providing the best service for the city but there will come a breaking point," said Xie.

The city is live streaming the negotiations. You can find the session dates and contract here.

Austin EMS is also one step closer to filling its chief position. Xie said they had 38 applicants, and last week the city manager received a list of finalists.

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