Detroit city council OKs pay increase, reduced workweeks for first responders

The terms include a 4% increase for firefighter/EMT classifications, a 2% increase for paramedics and a 1% increase for EMTs


Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

DETROIT — The Detroit City Council on Tuesday approved raises and a reduced workweek for the city's firefighters and emergency medical technicians.

The approval comes after city and labor officials reached an agreement earlier this month to put 1,118 firefighters and EMTs of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association under one, five-year contract.

Members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association will receive a raise and a 42-hour workweek, compared to 49, under a new contract.
Members of the Detroit Fire Fighters Association will receive a raise and a 42-hour workweek, compared to 49, under a new contract. (Photo/Detroit Fire Department Engine 44 Ladder 18)

The resolution, brought forward by District 2 Councilman Roy McCalister Jr. was approved without discussion along with several other city contracts.

Mayor Mike Duggan, Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones and DFFA President Thomas Gehart on July 9 announced the agreement that provides a 2% to 4% pay increase for all members and a shortened workweek from 49 hours to 42 hours.

The deal provides a 3% annual raise for DFFA employees; a 4% increase for firefighter/EMT classifications; a 2% increase for employees possessing a paramedic license; and a 1% increase for employees with an EMT license.

Union members ratified the contract by a vote of 502-94. The current DFFA contract expired on June 30, 2020. The new tentative contract goes into immediate effect and expires on June 30, 2026.

Duggan noted this month that the city and union reached the agreement to ensure that emergency personnel are recognized for their sacrifice and contributions.

"This contract will allow us to build on the progress we have made in improving our response time and helping our employees cope with high-demand jobs," the mayor said earlier this month.

Under the contract, DFFA members are offered EMT training by the city and training is built into the work schedule without affecting members' availability to respond to emergencies.

As of July, 779 firefighters at 33 fire companies are taking medical runs.

EMS does 58,000 ambulance runs each year, while firefighters make 25,000 fire runs. Firefighters also make 15,000 medical runs per year as medical first responders, city officials said.

The raises, Duggan has said, compensate for the additional work.

In March, Duggan vowed the city will provide mental health services for firefighters who have endured additional strain in recent years after being cross-trained as medical first responders. The pledge came after two suspected drunken driving incidents involving fire department staff in a single week, one in which a sergeant crashed a department vehicle.

Detroit started its medical first responder program in 2014 to help decrease EMS response time. Before then, Detroit was one of the only major fire departments in the country without cross-trained firefighters. Detroit deployed its medical first responder companies over a two-and-a-half-year transition.

Then, Detroit's EMS response time was between 16 and 18 minutes; as of this month, it was in line with the national average of 8 minutes, according to the city.

Under the contract, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics will man fire apparatus and ambulances. It also provides EMT personnel the opportunity to become firefighters.

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