One-year deal rewards department members with paramedic training
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — City firefighters will get a 1 percent pay raise in July and another 1 percent hike in January under a contract approved Monday by the City Council.
"Anybody would like to see a bigger increase, but we're happy to have something, given the tax cap limit," Fire Chief Ken Erickson said. "We're all very pleased to have a job."
The current wage schedule gives firefighters with a paramedic certification a 5 percent pay differential over those with an emergency medical technician certification. This grows to 7 percent under the new contract.
Qualified paramedics are in greater demand than emergency medical technicians and are subject to recruitment by other departments. There are more medical procedures they can do and the certification requires more schooling.
"This is a 'thank-you' to the ones we have and an enticement for them to stay," Erickson said. "I watched them work a cardiac arrest on a 76-year-old man. They got the heart muscle restarted and got him to a catheterization lab, where an emergency cath unclogged a blockage. I sit back in astonishment at what they can do."
Erickson said half of Laconia's 36 firefighters are paramedics, which is helpful given that many of the department's calls are for medical service.
City Manager Scott Myers said the new one-year contract makes some changes to medical coverage. The drug plan goes from a three-tiered program to four, and the physician co-pay goes to $25 for primary care doctors and $50 for specialists. The co-pay now stands at $20 for all doctors.
Current wages range from $18.23 an hour for a probationary firefighter with emergency medical technician certification to $25.72 for a sixth-class firefighter with paramedic certification. For fire officers, a captain with a paramedic certification can earn up to $32.97 an hour.
The pay increase in the contract is similar to the wage hike in an early agreement the City Council approved for the 36 members of the Laconia Administrative and Technical Employees bargaining unit.
Still to be resolved is a contract for Public Works employees. The council must also approve funding for contracts for police and teachers.
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