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Lakewood EMS Workers Keep Jobs, Lose 30 Percent Of Pay

The Lakewood Township Committee last night approved a new three-year contract for the ambulance service that slashed salaries of 15 workers by 30 percent – a blow that many of those people affected say will drastically alter their lives.

“It’s a total restructuring of my life,” said Mary Jane Delvalle, an EMS technician of 20 years, referring specifically to her two sons’ college futures.

Jose Ortiz, a technician of 12 years and an Army sergeant, said he will have to find a second job in October upon returning from a yearlong tour in Iraq. He leaves for Iraq next week after a brief leave.

“We just bought a house,” said the father of two.

The last time EMS faced the threat of being disbanded was in the early 1990s. That plan was scrapped. Now, in order to stave off another call to privatize, department employees accepted most of the offer from the township that, along with the pay cut, eliminated the supervisor position. The final contract does, however, keep Scott Carter on as supervisor.

One union official, to standing applause, accused township officials of “strong-arming” the EMS.

“The mean-spirited negotiating tactics in an economy such as this – to place these forgotten heroes to take a one-third pay cut – is a disgrace,” said Bill Lavin, president of the state FMBA, which represents the EMS. “If it were me, I’d tell you to take your offer and put it somewhere else other than the table.”

Shannon Ortiz, FMBA Local 380 union president, said the contract also requires the township to refrain from subcontracting or instituting layoffs until Dec. 31, meaning privatization and staff reductions could be revisited again.

To the question of whether the committee had looked at other departments before homing in on EMS, Committeeman Robert Singer said, “We haven’t gone through our budget process yet,” but that all departments will see cuts due to state aid shortage.

Officials reasoned EMS’ contract was the only one up for renegotiation.

The new contract might be seen as Lakewood’s first casualty of the severe cuts in state municipal aid, though township officials had been debating whether to privatize the service well before the state cuts were announced.

Though the contract saved EMS, the employees, union members and packed crowd of residents were not smiling Thursday night. Residents berated the committee for putting the brunt of budget cuts on the EMS, while employees out in the hall sat crying.

“No one won in this,” Singer said. “Basically it’s a case of surviving.”

Mayor Steven Langert ended the raucous meeting with frustration.

“There’s an old adage that goes, “The best deal is when both parties leave the table unhappy,’ ” he said before adjourning abruptly.


5 Responses

  1. #1, Why shouldnt they? Lakewood has the second largest industrial park in NJ. Lakewood has more new construction going on than all the other towns in the county put together. Where is the money going??????

  2. EMTs make extremely low salaries. Less than those who work in fast food like McDonalds. I know EMTs who are paid just $12/hr. This might be fine for someone flipping burgers but EMTs are highly trained professionals who save lives! They drive through red lights, provide emergency medical care and lift and move very heavy people!

    A pay cut is atrocious.

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