Gold Cross owner speaks out

Imperial Valley

Gold Cross owner speaks out

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EL CENTRO, CA (13 On Your Side) - It's day two in the paramedics strike in Imperial Valley. 

60 emergency workers walked off the job Sunday morning. 

We finally hear from the owner of Gold Cross. 

"You know, I've seen a lot of mistruths being spoken all through out this. I think you're going to find that out as you go through and look at the documentation we're providing."

Jimmy McNeal, Gold Cross co-owner and Director of Operations, provided 13 On Your Side with documents detailing the union's proposal.  

According to the documents, the paramedics union is asking for a pay raise totaling nearly $4 per hour - increasing paramedic's minimum hourly rate from $9.77 to $13.75.

The union is asking for nearly a $2 pay raise for emergency medical technicians. 

According to the company's Last, Best and Final offer - within the next five years - they're offering a 15% pay raise. That totals $1.36.

We asked McNeal why he feels this offer is reasonable. 

"It's manageable. If you're dealing with a shoe-string budget that barely meets your replacement costs, your fuel cost."

McNeal says he'd agree to pay his employees more - if Gold Cross could afford it. 

"The reality is – we'd love to pay more. Absolutely. We'd be foolish to say no. Yeah, we'd love to pay more. Can we afford to pay more? No."

"See, here's the thing that people miss: we have to pay the same rate for fuel, we have to pay the same rate for oil, tires. All these things cost. The insurance benefits for the employees - we have no control."

McNeal says Gold Cross is a for-profit company and does not receive taxpayer money. 

Instead, he says, the company bills residents directly for emergency services - including ambulance. 

However, McNeal says, the billing rates established by Imperial County, Medicare and Medical do not allow the company to profit enough - to give paramedics a pay raise of more than $4 per hour.

"A base rate for a patient that has Medical insurance - you're looking at about $117 for reimbursement. One item that I can think of is a particular needle that we have to carry in our vehicle. And the replacement cost for that single needle is $100 dollars. So that means there's 17 dollars left over to pay for the insurance, the fuel, the lighting, water and power, the list goes on."

 According to McNeal, right now both sides are far apart - and do not have plans to meet at the negotiating table any time soon. 

"We really haven't put anything together with regards to that. We went through our negotiations and we talked to the other party and, quite frankly, we were worn out. It was nothing but a bunch of games for seven months."

Click here to watch video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9S2JjG5Sd-M&feature=c4-overview&list=UU_HWippsEFZuw9vpbTUiVPw