BY COLIN STAUB
Over 600 ambulance crew members would get more predictable schedules, more paid time off, and raises totaling 17% under a tentative agreement Teamsters Locals 223 and 58 reached with American Medical Response (AMR).
Workers voted on the contract the week of Sept. 12, concluding after this issue went to print. [Update: AMR workers voted by 68% to 32% to approve the contract, with 84% voter turnout.]
The three-year agreement covers AMR paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) in Multnomah, Clackamas, Clark and Cowlitz counties. Their previous contract expired June 30, but after more than 18 bargaining sessions, agreement was reached. A bargaining committee consisting of eight workers across the coverage area, plus union officers from both locals, was recommending a “yes” vote.
“This tentative agreement, broadly, hit a little bit of everything,” said Jody Caprino, a Clackamas County paramedic who’s on the bargaining committee.
The contract brings the first increase in paid-time off (PTO) accrual in 24 years, Caprino said. Every worker would get 65 additional hours of PTO per year.
The new agreement also limits end-of-shift scheduling. The previous contract said AMR would “attempt, based on operational feasibility” to have workers return to their base station half an hour before the end of their scheduled shift. But in practice, paramedics and EMTs were frequently sent out on calls just before the end of their shifts, resulting in two or three additional hours on the clock. Instead of their scheduled 12-hour shift, they ended up working 14 or 15 hours, said Austin DePaolo, business representative for Local 223. One worker recently got sent out on a call 23 minutes before end-of-shift and ended up working 3 more hours, Caprino said.
The new agreement makes it a requirement that workers return to their base station one hour before end-of-shift. For the first half-hour, they’ll be available for certain priority-level calls only, and for the last half-hour they’ll be taken out of service and won’t be dispatched to any calls.
“That’s brand-new language, and it’s kind of landmark language in this industry,” DePaolo said.
The agreement also requires AMR to maintain “quarters,” established sites where workers can rest, have lunch, complete paperwork. AMR agreed to maintain seven quarters in Multnomah County, five in Clackamas, four in Clark, and two in Cowlitz. That’s a big deal particularly in the rural service areas. In Clackamas County, for example, there are currently only three quarters, Caprino said.
Under the agreement, workers get immediate 6% raises retroactive to July 1, followed by another 6% in January 2023 and 5% in January 2024. The contract expires June 30, 2024.
Workers could also get additional raises. The agreement stipulates that if AMR receives state government subsidies in Oregon or Washington, workers will get a 3% additional raise during the same calendar year. The union proposed that because of a subsidy program in the two states that is meant to compensate providers for calls that Medicaid doesn’t fully reimburse.
The agreement also adds the first ever shift differential to the contract: an extra $1 per hour for shifts beginning between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m.