Chiefland NEws

Union hopes signs raise awareness of low pay for county emergency workers

By Ken Dougherty

White signs with red letters and a cryptic question have sprung up around Chiefland in an effort to bring public attention to the county's ambulance service.

Members of the International Association of Fire Fighters have put up the signs to make the public aware that emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics are leaving the local service because of low pay, said David Florance, vice president of Local 4069.

"Negotiations begin on Monday. We put up the signs to try to gain public support for a wage increase. We need community support," Florance said.

The signs that ask "Do you know where your ambulance is?" are designed to pique the interest of the community and get support for EMS employees, the union leader said.

He said the union members must have more money or the exodus by employees to other emergency medical services will continue.

"A starting EMT makes $6.40 an hour. A beginning paramedic makes $7.48 an hour. We are asking for a $1.50 an hour increase for EMTs and $2 an hour for paramedics across the board," Florance said.

"Our members work 24 hours on and 48 hours off. Some of them have had to work two or three shifts in a row. They become very fatigued after three shifts," he explained.

An increase in wages will allow the service to recruit more people to share the burden of the 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week service, the local vice president said.

He said that members have petitions citizens can sign to show their support for the emergency medical service employees.

Florance said that while full time employees are leaving, the service is also losing part time employees as well due to low pay.

EMS Director Marie Wells said that she is aware that the pay in Levy County doesn't match other services.

"We know that the pay is low. We're going to try to get them more money," she said. Anyone wishing to sign a petition can do so by calling 535-5387, Florance said.