Emergency medical service workers are fundamentally underpaid and unvalued


Jo Ramos

The Ticker

Robert Milman

Emergency medical services workers continue to be among the front-line heroes that keep New York City healthy and safe throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Emergency medical technicians and paramedics are some of the most essential workers that citizens rely on.

However, the low salary and muted appreciation leave the well-being of many EMS workers below the worries of city and state officials.

The 911 EMS system is operated by many different sectors, mostly from the New York City Fire Department and hospital systems such as NYU Langone Health, Northwell Health, Mount Sinai Health System, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital and more.

The EMT salary starts at $35,254 and goes to $50,604 after five years. The paramedic salary starts at $48,237 and goes to $65,226 after five years, according to the FDNY.

FDNY EMS unions, including Local 2507 and Local 3621, have recently ratified a 49-month pact. The new top pay for EMTs has increased to $68,700 and paramedic top pay has increased to $86,379, according to Local 2507.

Even with members receiving additional benefits packages including health plans and “full pension benefits after 25 years of service,” the extremely low salary continues to deter many from becoming EMS workers and continuing in the field.

Many EMTs and paramedics will be put in harmful and life-threatening situations throughout their tenure as first responders. Although in most circumstances they will not be running into fires like firefighters or be shot at like police officers, they are constantly exposed to bloodborne pathogens and airborne diseases.

The New York Daily News reports that the low salaries are, “part of the reason why EMS workers here often must live 50 to 100 miles away from the city to afford housing. Simply put, the wages and conditions experienced by the professional members of the FDNY EMS are discriminatory.”

Something that most citizens can agree on is that real estate, basic living and transportation costs in New York City are some of the highest in the nation. Workers making close to minimum wage, such as EMS professionals, are forced to face the harsh reality of what it is like to make a low salary in such an expensive city.

This leads to a majority of EMTs and paramedics seeking another way to make a livable income.

EMS World conducted a survey, which showed that “Overall, 71% of respondents indicated they depended on additional work to make ends meet. This included 57% who indicated they depended on overtime and 56% who depended on more than one job… Dependence on extra work also increased the odds of reporting intentions to leave EMS within one year.”

EMTs and paramedics are some of the hardest working people in the labor force. The fact that they are consistently willing to put on a uniform and serve the community in more ways than one, despite their controversially low salary is what makes these front-line workers heroes.

With a low salary and constantly being undervalued, this not only affects the morale of these first responders but could potentially harm the life-saving care that citizens receive. Without feeling that one’s work is necessary, it is hard to imagine how one can continue to prosper in a desired field.

New York City owes its 911 EMS system a deserving and competitive salary that will keep current first responders happy, and most importantly, safe.

It is difficult to envision what a city could look like without EMS as a prominent presence.

By increasing the salary and showing gratitude to each EMS worker, the city can assure that the field of emergency medicine will continue to prosper with satisfied workers and assure those beginning their journeys to becoming emergency technicians and paramedics that this field is here to stay.