Queens councilwoman calls for EMS pay parity, slams Hochul for ‘unconscionable veto’

Councilwoman Joann Ariola supports EMS workers in their fight to close the pay gap with FDNY firefighters. (Courtesy of FDNY)

Councilwoman Joann Ariola is reiterating her long-standing support of emergency medical service workers in their battle to reduce the pay gap between EMS and other first responders.

Ariola spoke out after more than two dozen current and former EMS personnel signed onto a lawsuit based on the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission’s findings that the city “discriminated against “ FDNY EMS based on race and sex from November 2018 to the present “with respect to pay, benefits and terms of conditions of employment.”

The 57-page lawsuit filed last month alleges that FDNY firefighters are dominated by white men while EMS is composed mainly by people of color and women, causing both racial and gender disparity.

“The EMS needs pay parity with their brothers and sisters in the FDNY, and they need it now,” Ariola said. “These men and women work tirelessly every single day to save the lives of their fellow New Yorkers, and it’s well past due that we recognize these heroes for their efforts.”

Currently, first-year EMTs are paid a base salary of $39,386, according to the lawsuit and within five years, their pay increases to $59,534. Meanwhile, FDNY firefighters start with a salary of $43,904, which goes up to $85,292 after five years, according to the lawsuit.

“EMS personnel respond to many of the same calls as firefighters and police officers, and yet the city still views them as the ‘little brother’ to other city agencies. This view needs to end, and the first step towards doing that is giving EMS workers the pay that they deserve.”

Ariola also called on Governor Kathy Hochul to reverse her recent veto of legislation that would have enabled FDNY personnel to receive credit for any time served as an EMT member prior to becoming a firefighter.

“Last month, I released a statement that railed against Gov. Hochul’s decision to veto SB6980 B – a bill that would have allowed EMS workers-turned-firefighters to carry over their EMS time and add it to their FDNY pensions,” Ariola said. “In that statement, I called the governor’s decision to veto that bill unconscionable – it was vetoed despite having full support from both houses of the NYS legislature and passing as a home rule through City Council. Looking at it in a larger context, we can see that that veto was just one more slap in the face for our city’s EMS personnel. One more instance of disrespect for men and women who dedicate their lives to saving the lives of others. This needs to stop. Give EMS pay parity, allow them to roll over their time, and start treating these first responders as equals. I’m glad that the federal government is finally getting involved to rectify this situation, and I just hope that something beneficial will come out of this latest suit.”

Ariola was disappointed by Hochul’s address on Tuesday.

“During the State of the State speech, Governor Hochul spoke about the ‘New York Dream’ and about improving the lives of New Yorkers – all while refusing to help our EMS personnel achieve the quality of life they deserve,” Ariola said. “I don’t understand how the governor can say she wants to provide New Yorkers with greater financial stability, while at the same time denying EMS pay parity with their FDNY colleagues and vetoing bills that would allow EMS personnel-turned-firefighters to carry their EMS time over for their pensions. If you really want to help all residents of the state to achieve the ‘New York Dream,’ how about we start with helping those who have dedicated their lives to saving the lives of others? It’s time our EMS finally get the respect they deserve.”