CLEVELAND—The EMS union representing workers in Cleveland, Ohio, is seeking support for job-related mental health treatment services in a new collective bargaining agreement currently being negotiated.
CARE 1975 is a labor union representing paramedics, EMTs, dispatchers and sergeants in Cleveland, and is working to keep the benefit as part of the new contract. The city is requesting the clause be removed, according to CARE.
According to a report by Cleveland 19 News, the city of Cleveland’s response to the request of fully paid leave for mental trauma “would add millions” to the cost of the city’s division of EMS, while “stripping the commissioner of many of her management rights.”
The city further claims that EMS personnel already have resources available for mental trauma, including EAP representatives and a doctor with the Cleveland Police Department, according to the report. Difficulty verifying claims, potential for abuse, and the lack of such a clause in other cities’ contracts are other reasons for the city’s desire to remove the benefit, according to Cleveland 19 News.
An arbitrator’s ruling sided with the union, and would have provided PTSD support in the new contract, but the city drafted a letter to the union asking them to remove the PTSD clause.
In response, CARE released a statement sent to EMS World that reads:
“The Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, ILA Local 1975 (CARE) is extremely disappointed in the news that the City of Cleveland moved to vacate the Arbitration Award for its 2016‐2019 Collective Bargaining Agreement. CARE represents the nearly 300 Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians and Emergency Medical Dispatchers who work for the City of Cleveland, Division of EMS.
“Per the labor agreement between CARE and the City, disputes concerning the labor agreement are to be resolved through negotiations, and if necessary, final and binding arbitration. The parties’ bargaining disputes were resolved through a lengthy negotiation and arbitration process. The City, however, is unhappy with the Arbitrator’s decision and is now attempting to reverse that decision at the cost of the EMS employees and the City’s taxpayers.”
The most recent collective bargaining agreement between Cleveland EMS and the city expired in April 2016, Paul Melhuish, president of CARE 1975, told EMS World. This arbitration award is for the current contract, which would expire April 1, 2019. "By filing in the court of appeals to vacate the award, [the city] could delay this contract up to two more years (assuming all appeals are used), as well as the next contract," Melhuish said.
"Our entire staff is still working at 2015 wages with no PTSD/mental health protocol—and will be while this process is ongoing," he said.