AMR defends response times, laments lack of union support to recent wage hike offer

The union has not responded to AMR’s offer of a wage increase of 11.53% for EMTs and 11.86% for paramedics


By Stephanie Barry
MassLive.com

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — The top local official for American Medical Response held a press conference Friday to defend the ambulance service and its commitment to employees, which has recently come under fire amid a labor dispute.

AMR Regional Manager Patrick Pickering spoke to the media four days after dozens of EMTs and paramedics demonstrated outside the Cottage Street headquarters for the area’s dominant ambulance company.

Patrick Pickering, regional director for Springfield's American Medical Response, speaks to reporters amid a labor dispute on Oct. 18, 2019.
Patrick Pickering, regional director for Springfield's American Medical Response, speaks to reporters amid a labor dispute on Oct. 18, 2019.

“We want to make it absolutely clear that we care about two things: continuing to provide outstanding service to the city of Springfield and taking care of our employees who serve those communities,” said Pickering, flanked by a group of employees.

AMR or its predecessor company has held the city’s 911 call contract for more than a decade, city officials have said. In January, AMR purchased rival MedCare, absorbing its employees and its transfer contract with Baystate Medical Center. Employees on Monday said morale tanked and their workload went up after that.

Pickering provided statistics showing the company has met or exceeded its “on-time” call obligation with the city — which is 90% — each month. For the last three months, 911 calls ranged from 2,800 calls per month to more than 3,000, AMR statistics show. Pickering also said AMR’s cardiac arrest survival rates are among the best.

Union official Colt Cross, of OPEIU Local 6, said wages for EMTs are “not livable” and “barely above minimum wage.”

Pickering, on the other hand, said the union has not responded to AMR’s offer of an 11.53% wage increase for EMTs and an 11.86% wage hike for paramedics. Paramedics have higher levels of training and certifications.

“Combined with the raises our employees already received this year, our offer would result in EMTs receiving a 14% wage increase this year and our paramedics receiving 14.6% wage increases,” Pickering said.

The current contract is set to expire in June, he said.

“Despite fulfilling our obligations under our collective bargaining agreement, we recognized that a market wage adjustment was called for and we affirmatively reached out to our union to negotiate that adjustment,” Pickering said.

The union has not responded. Cross sent an early morning email to a reporter, calling the offer “insulting.”

“We have received talks with corporate AMR and they offered us an extremely low ball raise that was insulting to all us,” Cross wrote.

“We have employees every day saving lives, seeing things most people don’t ever want to. Things that give people nightmares all for just above minimum wage. Then they go home and can barely pay their bills or have to rely on state assistance,” he continued.

“They cant afford to see a doctor themselves or get their own medications. With how mentally and and physically demanding working as an EMT and Paramedic is working for just above minimum wage is just insulting and is showing AMR does not care about their employees or their health.”

Employees had planned another demonstration Friday afternoon but canceled it at the last minute.

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©2019 MassLive.com, Springfield, Mass.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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