BOSTON -- The 25 men and women who became Boston's newest emergency medical technicians graduated a day after their union and City Hall negotiated a landmark contract, and at the end of a year where their fellow workers responded to more than 100,000 calls, a record.
''It really is a new era,'' said Boston EMS Superintendent Richard Serino, who added that there were just 24 EMTs citywide when he started in 1973, and two ambulances, ''Which often broke down.''
The contract between the city and the Boston Police Patrolmen's Union/EMS Division was ratified December 29, and for the first time gives EMTs the same pension benefits as police and firefighters.
It allows them to retire at age 55 after 32 years of service with a full pension, as opposed to the previous contract, which required EMTs to remain on the job until they reached age 62 in order to get full benefits, said union President Jamie Orsino.
The contract, similar to the previous one, called for a committee to create a drug-testing policy within 45 days. The last called for a committee to create drug-testing policy within a year.
The new contract will ''make life easier'' for EMTs, including the 25 newest recruits who gathered at Faneuil Hall for their graduation ceremony yesterday afternoon after 12 weeks of riding in Boston ambulances to learn the streets and neighborhoods.
During that training, graduates Kenneth Edwards and Ryan Hickey resuscitated Robert Gilroy, a Boston man who had a heart attack on Newbury Street. Gilroy accepted a bouquet of flowers from the lifesavers yesterday.
''I wouldn't be here without them,'' he said.