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Ahead of Austin EMS contract negotiations, commissioners side with union on pay raise larger than 14 cents

"When you think about his rent is going up $300 a month, and the City's first offer to us was about $300 for the whole year," Selena Xie.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Monday, Public Safety Commissioners recommended the City raise its 14-cent pay increase offer to Austin-Travis County EMS, based on salaries offered by local public safety agencies nationally.

This comes as ATCEMS and the City will continue contract negotiations on Tuesday. 

During Monday's Public Safety Commission meeting, commissioners were upset that city attorneys didn't show up to discuss a highly contested 14-cent raise they offered ATCEMS during contract negotiations. 

"I do consider them not coming to this discussion today a slap in the face," said Commissioner Rocky Lane. 

"So I think that that exact same sentiment was shown today by them not showing up," said Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie. 

The union asked the City to up its base pay to $27 per hour from the starting salary of $19.56 an hour, but instead were offered $19.70 per hour.

"It really shot morale down again," said Xie. "We actually had somebody quit over the disrespect that they felt like the City showed."

Morale is down in a department short about 120 medics. Xie said at least 26 medics left this year – more than the 28 lost in all of 2019.

At the same time, the department is struggling to fill training classes halfway, mainly, Xie said, because of the uncompetitive pay rate.

"You can be an EMT basic for a clinic, all sorts of different settings, for $25 an hour," said Xie. 

With the cost of living in Austin on an expeditious rise, some medics can't afford to live where they save lives. 

"That is heartbreaking for us, especially when you think about his rent is going up $300 a month, and the City's first offer to us was about $300 for the whole year," she said.

In a statement last month, the City wrote its offer is an "unprecedented pay package." It also read it's a "51% increase in new money compared to the last contract they approved" in 2018.

"The City of Austin pays police officers $30 an hour," said Xie. "So we know that the City can afford it."

Xie said they counteroffered on Tuesday with $26.40, hoping the City will have a more competitive offer in return. Video of Tuesday's negotiations can be viewed here.

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