SEIU responders serve labor-state strike notice

SEIU Local 200 United members voted to strike Thursday night, once more rejecting a contract proposal from WCA Services. For now, area emergency responders will continue to provide services to the Jamestown, NY area. However, once union officials deliver the official strike notice to WCA Services, management will have 10 days to come up with a different contract to take to the bargaining table.

In what chief steward Ray Austin called an ‘‘exceptionally good turnout,’’ the union overwhelmingly shot down the last contract offer. Scott Phillipson, assistant to the president of Local 200United, said the union would soon be issuing a 10-day strike notice to WCA Services.

During those 10 days, WCA Services will have the opportunity to present what the union describes as a ‘‘more reasonable contract.’’

‘‘It’s fair to say we never wanted to be here,’’ Austin said. ‘‘We’ve done everything in our power to avoid this situation, and our employer has thus far refused to bargain in good faith in respect to where we are now.’’

The offer from WCA Services was a training rate for Critical Care Technicians of $9.50 an hour and a pay rate for standard EMTs of $8.07 an hour. However, once a new hire has passed through the training stage, which can range anywhere from a few days to multiple weeks depending on a person’s job and prior experience, a CCT earns $10 an hour and a basic EMT earns $8.49.

According to SEIU Local 200, however, Trans Am Ambulance, the provider for Cattaraugus County EMTs, offers a starting rate of $8.25 an hour, while Rural Metro and Twin City Ambulance offer $9.70 and $10 an hour, respectively. WCA Services offered to eliminate the training salary and paying employees a field certified wage immediately.

‘‘Obviously our concern through this whole process has been the community,’’ Phillipson said. ‘‘This is an employer that has the funds, and they’ve forced our hand at the last bargaining session. They said they felt we weren’t going to strike and therefore didn’t feel the need to increase our proposal — obviously they were wrong.’’

Phillipson said he hopes after issuing the notice, WCA Services will return to the bargaining table and a strike will be avoided. However, he assured if no changes were made, members were ready to move forward. In the meantime, he said, it is ‘‘business as usual’’ for the dozens of EMTs, CCTs and paramedics in the union.

‘‘We told them from the beginning we wouldn’t go away, and we’re doing what we said we would do,’’ Austin said.

Prior to the union’s announcement, David Thomas, senior account executive for WCA Services, told The Post-Journal in the event the union decides to go on strike, there were contingency plans in place to provide emergency services to Jamestown residents.

‘‘We don’t want to see a strike, but in the event (it happens) management will take all necessary means to minimize disruptions,’’ Thomas said. ‘‘Calls in downtown Jamestown and Dunkirk will be our top priorities. We have different layers of management, so not everybody in our company is in a union, so we do have the means to get things done.’’

Union members will work as normal until after the 10-day notice expires.

‘‘They know what they need to do to get this deal done,’’ Phillipson said.


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