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Conn. EMS union backs no-confidence vote after overwhelming rejection of contract offer

Hunter’s Ambulance employees have been without a contract since the end of 2021 and are at odds with Hartford HealthCare over wages and mandatory shifts

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By Kenneth R. Gosselin
Hartford Courant

MERIDEN, Conn. — Unionized employees of Meriden-based Hunter’s Ambulance backed a no-confidence vote in management by Hartford HealthCare, just days after paramedics, emergency medical technicians and dispatchers overwhelmingly rejected the health system’s latest contract offer.

Members of Local 294 of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics have been working without a contract since the end of 2021. Hartford HealthCare purchased the ambulance service provider on June 1, 2021.

The two sides primarily are separated over wage increases, which union members argue are below other competing ambulance services and mandatory shifts that go beyond the scheduled work week.

“There has been a frustration on the part of the members that [Hartford HealthCare] isn’t willing to put them on parity with other EMS agencies,” Peter Zera, a negotiator for the union, said.

In a statement, Hunter’s Ambulance said it “has been negotiating in good faith with the union” and the latest proposal was backed in a tentative agreement between Hartford HealthCare and the union’s negotiating committee. The agreement called for a new contract providing “substantial increases to wages and benefits.”

“Hunter’s Ambulance will continue to meet and bargain in good faith with the IAPE to promptly reach a mutually acceptable contract,” the statement said.

The latest contract offer was rejected by 87% of the more than 200 emergency medical technicians, paramedics and dispatchers in the union, Zera said.

Zera said he understands Hartford HealthCare has to advertise and support venues such as the Hartford HealthCare Amphitheater in Bridgeport, part of a corporate public relations campaign.

“But it is really frustrating for the membership to see the billboards and the advertisements, the Super Bowl ads and the commercials and not see it reflected in their pockets and their wages,” Zera said.

Hunter’s Ambulance primarily serves Meriden, Berlin, Middlefield and Middletown. The ambulance provider also performs mutual aid backup in Wallingford, New Britain, Cromwell and Portland — and it has a fleet of about 30 ambulances.

In its statement, Hunter’s pushed back on the union’s assertion that worsening workplace conditions continue to endanger the safety of first responders and patients.

“Over the last two years, Hunter’s Ambulance has made significant health and safety enhancements, including an upgraded communication platform and new medical equipment, which have greatly benefited our employees and our patients,” the statement said.

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