‘Even on the Frontlines of the Covid-19 Pandemic We are not Treated Equal’
FDNY EMS Respond to Mayors Claim Now is Not the Time for Equal Pay
NEW YORK, NY — Three unions representing the more than 4,000 FDNY EMS First Responders issued a statement responding to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s public comment yesterday that “it’s not the time” to consider better pay for the men and women on the frontlines of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The comment came in a radio interview reported on by the NY Post in which a caller asked if he had changed his position on not raising pay for FDNY EMS First Responders who are predominately of color and has a large female percentage to match the salaries of the almost exclusively male and white firefighters. When asked if he still valued the work that FDNY EMS does less than other first responders “in terms of real dollars and cents” the Mayor responded that this was a “bigger issue in the labor dynamic of the City” and that “It’s not time to.. make something up on the fly.”
Oren Barzilay along with Vincent Variale and Joseph Pataky put out a statement on behalf of all 3 EMS unions stating:
“On the day the emergency Paycheck Protection Program opens for small businesses, the Mayor of New York tells our members we are not important enough to take emergency steps to protect.
Even the President of the United States has recently stated that front line medical workers doing this dangerous work should get some form of incentive pay. In Arkansas the governor is rolling out plans to pay nurses $1,000 more per month during this pandemic. Yet our Mayor tells us to wait until after we have saved this City from the crisis to talk about how we put food on our table and expend the costs and extra steps to try to make sure our families are safe as we show up on the frontlines.
It is unfortunate that at the time when FDNY EMS employees need our mayor’s leadership and support, he chooses once again to treat us like second class citizens. We are not complaining about the work we do. This is our burning building and we are here to do the work. But at a time when FDNY EMS is shining throughout the world, displaying the remarkable work being done to protect life, New York’s Mayor tells us we are not important enough to be cared for. The fact that the mayor believes that what amounts to minimum wage pay for FDNY EMS workers, but not sufficient for his own staff or others is highly disturbing. The fact that he is willing to risk the lives of the FDNY’s dedicated EMS workforce for what amounts to a salary below the living wage like this is shameful. Our members are surviving on poverty wages, working 16-hour shifts, and handling overwhelming call volume. The City’s position is not only hurtful, it is not sustainable. With each and every medical response our EMT’s and paramedics are in direct contact with fellow New Yorkers contaminated with Covid-19 virus. Extra financial resources make it easier for us to stay safe and to keep New Yorkers safe. It also allows us the resources to better care for ourselves during this time, not to mention sends a message that the City appreciates the risks we take to save lives.
Our oath of office is to protect and provide urgent medical care, but given the intensive medical expertise and training we are required to have for this career, it is unacceptable and shameful for the mayor to stand on his soap box giving speeches about the life saving work we do while paying us wages that keep us in poverty. He also completely fails to recognize that if we are exposed to contamination, we cannot return home to our families, fearing that we will pass the virus to our children, our spouses or neighbors.
FDNY EMS is leading the charge in this City on the COVID-19 pandemic first response. While other first responders are ordered to stay back, FDNY EMS are ordered to go in. We are on the frontlines of this global pandemic, risking our lives regardless of the dangers.
We work shoulder-to-shoulder with emergency room physicians and nurses and share treatment of the same seriously ill New Yorkers, shoulder the same health risks and have commensurate emergency medical experience and credentials. Our membership may not be the traditional demographic makeup of who we think of as a hero. But that doesn’t make these men and women any less of heroes. Our members bravely do this work with expertise and without objection. We are not even asking for the recognition our members deserve, all we ask in return is that the City pay these first responders a living wage like other first responders so they can sustain this critical work and stay alive. It is heartbreaking we even have to respond to comments like this from our Mayor. It is heartbreaking that we have to beg for more than minimum wages as we fight on the frontlines as FDNY EMS.
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SOURCE: Yetta Kurland | Communication