The city’s ambulance corps is so busy that an overtime cap applying to all other agencies has been lifted and medics are routinely putting in 60 and 70-hour weeks, union officials said.
Normally, city workers can’t make more than 40 percent of their salary in overtime. However, with just 4,133 emergency medical technicians and paramedics to handle nearly 1.9 million calls last year, the FDNY’s bureau of Emergency Medical Services routinely dangles overtime to keep ambulances running.
“Other jobs . . . there would be fights in the hallways for getting two hours extra of overtime in a day,” said Vincent Variale, president of Local 2621 of District Council 37, which represents EMS officers.
“At EMS, it’s the complete opposite. You get overtime and everyone is running in the other direction,” he said.
During a budget hearing on Thursday at the City Council, Variale and Oren Barzilay, who heads the union for rank-and-file EMTs and paramedics, said their members are being run ragged by the long shifts.
Barzilay, president of Local 2507, said medics “are scrambling to fill shifts to serve the public” — all while “on pace” to make a record 2 million emergency calls this year.
Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI), who chairs the committee overseeing EMS, said, “It’s a problem when you have a union saying there’s too much overtime for its members.”
He added, “This is something that is almost comical. It demonstrates how much stress is put on members.”
Barzilay told The Post the city would be better served if it boosted the EMS workforce to at least 5,000 — rather than exhausting medics with extra shifts.
Both he and the Fire Department confirmed the overtime cap for medics was lifted in December. The waiver runs through June, when it will be re-evaluated.
Cap lifts are rare, but the FDNY said accepting the extra workload is voluntary.
The city last year spent nearly $48 million on EMS overtime — an increase of 39 percent compared to the $34.5 million shelled out in 2015.
Mayor de Blasio set aside $29.5 million in 2018 — or $18.5 million less than what was actually spent.
Variale said that while many EMTs “don’t want” the extra workload, many need it “just to make livable wage at EMS.”
The starting salary for EMTs is $35,254 compared to $43,904 for firefighters. After five years, EMTs typically earn $50,605 compared to $85,292 for firefighters.
Because of the large pay disparity, many EMTs use the job as a stepping stone to become firefighters, making it difficult to keep experienced medics on the job, according to union officials.
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