Paramedics to strike within days, county reassures backup plan

Imperial Valley

Paramedics to strike within days, county reassures backup plan

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EL CENTRO, CA (13 On Your Side) - 13 On Your Side has confirmed: paramedics working for Gold Cross in Imperial County will go on strike on Sunday.

The paramedic's union claims the company failed to meet their demands, which includes a $1 per hour pay raise.  

We wanted to know if the county plans to step in to keep the paramedics from going on strike.

We found out that even though the county hired Gold Cross to provide emergency services, county officials say they will not interfere with the labor negotiations.

They say trying to mediate would cause more problems.

For two months now, the paramedics union - Teamsters Local 542 - and Gold Cross, have been trying to negotiate a new labor contract.  

Paramedics want a dollar per hour pay raise - from $9 to $10 - better working conditions, better healthcare benefits and newer vehicles.

But according to union representative Phil Farias, the company has offered to pay an increase that has not met the union's demand.

"When you're offering them a 2.5% increase – that's a quarter. On top of a 6 year wage freeze. When you make a proposal that all future full-time employees will only receive employee-only medical benefits, and have to pay for two party or family coverage, that's not a fair proposal that maintains medical benefits for the employees."

Because both sides have not been able to come to an agreement, county officials say they have a plan in place if paramedics go on strike.

"Basically the next tier of the plan includes the county responding by bringing in local mutual aide resources which would include resources from Calexico fire, the Naval Air Facility in El Centro, Fire Department and Rural Metro Ambulance," says Imperial County EMS manager Cedric Cesena, "basically these are to augment whatever Gold Cross already has on the road and we would increase the number of ambulances to meet the minimum standard."

The county requires a minimum of nine ambulances - each with one paramedics and one emergency medical technician - to provide services to the entire county.

Cesena says if the strike lasts longer than expected, the county could terminate its contract with Gold Cross.

"At some point too long of a strike it would potentially result in, obviously, the county maybe even re-negotiating or basically calling a breach of the contract."

 County officials would not say how this could impact residents in need of emergency services.

We tried to contact Gold Cross management but they could not give a statement on camera.

However, we're told that the head of the company will be in El Centro tomorrow.

No word yet on if both sides will meet to reach a last minute deal.  

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