Over the course of several months the SEIU Local 200United representing the private sector’s professional Paramedics, EMTs, and Dispatchers in Chautauqua County have been in active negations with Chautauqua County’s private ambulance company for a pay raise for its members. At the current time a number of our providers make less than the workers in the fast food industry. This wage differentiation is not unique to our area and has caused issues for many in our profession; locally, however, this differentiation is drastic and inappropriate.
Over the course of several years we have watched as EMS agencies adjacent to, and within, our County have increased their wages to supply their employees with compensation for the time, dedication, and knowledge which our profession requires. This realization that for too long the “standard” wages associated with our profession have been inadequate, has resulted in a cultural shift to increase wages in an attempt to retain professional providers. A shift which the company refuses to acknowledge; this refusal to provide proper compensation to their members has directly lead to numerous employees, some with 10+ years of service, leaving the company in pursuit for more appropriate wages. This migration of employees, along with recent business decisions to abandon 911 calls in pursuit of interfacility hospital transfers, has caused a lack of manned ambulances in the Cities of Dunkirk and Jamestown. Our dedicated members have worked diligently with a decreasing staff presence, and increasing call volume, in an attempt to maintain EMS coverage for these areas; an effort which is often in vain.
Due to the current trend of employee movement, our Union requested to open negotiations to address these concerns, and prevent further vacancies/ system shortages. Despite our best efforts to negotiate, the company, continually circumvents these efforts and instead elects to postpone further negotiations. During this time of negotiation we continue to serve our local communities with the members we have available; but the reality is that, for many of us, we could leave today after years of service, education, as well as experience gained, and instantly make more at the local fast food establishments. Without support from the community we have no future; our employees can not financially afford to work this job alone, those who remain are quickly becoming overwhelmed with the increasing work demand and decreasing support from the company.
For too long we have been fighting alone, we have been trying desperately to not place our needs on the public we serve. We realize now that this fight isn’t one we can win without support. It is our hope that with the support of local media we can raise awareness of this ongoing issue and continue to provide professional EMS services to all those who require our help. Rest assured that despite appropriate wages, or full staffing levels, we will continue to fight for our community, and do everything within our power to ensure these shortages do not become a burden to the public. As we fight for you, we hope you will fight for us; should the community choose to take action or show their support through phone calls, letters, etc. We would encourage them to voice their support, and ensure that the private sector ambulance company of Chautauqua County understand that in this venture we do not stand alone!