Friday, May 18, 2012

Starting Over

There are days I just want to forget happened. I had one of those a couple of weeks ago which promted me to delete all posts. It's a shame, but all of my posts from my time in the academy had been lost in my move to this format so... I'm creeping up on eight years as a professional firefighter paramedic. After many discussions with people, it has become clear that there are many different ways to structure this area of public safety. I can only comment on the way OUR jurisdiction is structured, not how others work.

The general public does not understand what we do. It's just a fact. I explain to those who ask and try to understand those who just don't care. We're never important to anyone until they need us and quite often we get verbally (and sometimes physically) abused because they are ignorant of what we are doing. I've been punched in the face, kicked (I lost count how many times), spit on, screamed at, peed on, puked on and cursed. I've also had people make me things, drop off baskets of nuts (not really sure WHY nuts, but it was AWESOME), and drop off dinner. And usually the ones that are the most grateful to you are the ones you didn't do much more than be there for them. I've had to sit by and hold an elderly woman's hand while I honored her decision to die with dignity.

Lately we have had to fight for ourselves on a scale I have never personally had to deal with. We currently work a 42 hour work week - something we fought for and got a couple of years ago. It came at a cost. We have to pay more for our retirement (contrary to popular belief, our retirement is NOT coming out of taxes alone - I pay almost $300/month), more towards health costs and there were leave considerations. Recently we were told that they wanted us to go back to a 47 hour work week (no overtime over 40 hours because it's considered regular time). This is essentially a 12% cut in pay. And by the way, all the things we had to give up to still work more hours per week than a "normal" person would not be returned to us. Oh, but WAIT! They were offering a 5% raise. Seriously. We haven't seen a raise, merit or even cost of living, in three years. I know some of us were tempted. We stood strong and the case went to arbitration. And we WON. Here's the thing. The local government still has to VOTE on the decision. this is something I just can't wrap my head around. The taxpayers voted on binding arbitration and approved it. The local government disregarded what the taxpayers wanted and so here we are. People they have paid a great deal of money to train are leaving for neighboring jurisdictions. Most noteable are the paramedics. Despite what the public thinks, paramedics are NOT EMTs. They have two years of college level education beyond what they learned in EMT. If you consider the time it takes to train one as well as the cost of overtime paid to the person filling that person's position, it's enormous. But when the neighboring jurisdictions are paying more for a entry-level paramedic than I make with almost eight years in? You don't have to be a genius here. I remember the days of working mandatory overtime because there was no one to come relieve me after a 24 hour shift. It's coming again. VERY soon. We haven't hired anyone here in at lease two and a half years. Anyone think an exhausted paramedic is a good thing?

You know what the worst thing is? It was just revealed that our personnel department has taken millions of dollars our of our pay for health insurance that we did not owe. They are giving us an "insurance holiday" and stated in the press that this was such a good thing for us. Anyone think they would do this had they not been audited and the results made public?

Yeah, me neither.