UPDATE: News 4's Anthony Congi has learned Rural Metro and its unionized workers have reached a tentative agreement. The deal needs to be presented to membership and voted on.
The union president tells Congi the proposal is a four-year contract and improves wages and health care. He expects members to approve the proposal.
The deal needs to be ratified which will happen over the next few days. Those who are able to will return to work Tuesday.
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Around 400 paramedics and EMTs at Rural/Metro have walked off the job after not being able to come to a new contract agreement. Tuesday morning, sources tell News 4's Anthony Congi contract talks between Rural Metro and the union have broken down without an agreement in place.
The union announced 10 days ago they would strike if a new contract agreement could not be reached. At 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, the company locked the union workers out as the strike went into effect.
The union president representing Rural Metro says negotiations were taking place until Tuesday morning since 10 a.m. Monday. He says Rural Metro did not budge on wages. They are due to come back, but he says he is not optimistic it will be acceptable.
Lawmakers like Darius Pridgen say because of this strike, the city may think twice about contracting with Rural/Metro again.
"Because if we lose one life because of slow response time or the level of the quality of services is not there, than Rural/Metro has not done its job," he said.
Pridgen believes the company is not paying the first responders enough, which in some cases is only $10 an hour.
Rural/Metro spokesman Brian Lawson says the company has a plan to keep response time safe even with the strike.
"We've had personnel arriving in Western New York since Sunday. They have been in orientation meetings all day today," Lawson said.
That's in addition to the current supervisors and managers who would not be on strike.
Lawson added, "So they will move away from their managerial roles and move towards patient care."
Monday night, the Cheektowaga Town Council voted to re-license Rural/Metro to work in the town even with the strike.
Council member Jim Rogowski said, "When you look at what Rural/Metro has offered to the town, the employees and their work, 95- to 98-percent response time on-time or higher. Unheard of when you look around the country. They're fantastic workers. They just need to work a fair agreement out."
Rural/Metro's competition, Twin City Ambulance, has also made arrangements to beef up its staff if needed to pick up the slack.
Bryan Brauner of Twin City Ambulance said, "We have a certificate if needed to operate in all of Erie and Niagara counties. We are not in any way restricted from taking calls in those counties, including the City of Buffalo."
The company and union continue to negotiate a new contract, but for now, workers are off the job.