Wages low, injuries high for emergency medical workers, study says

February 9, 2017 by Kathleen Maclay, University of California - Berkeley
Credit: firstnetgov / CC By-NC-ND 2.0

Wages in the emergency medical service industry are low, employees work long hours often without rest and meal breaks, and injury rates are high, according to a joint study by the University of California, Berkeley's Center for Labor Research and Education and the UCLA Labor Center.

The report sheds light on the structure and oversight of EMS jobs across California, where wages and working conditions vary considerably by employer.

More than 80 percent of EMTs and paramedics work for private firms. These jobs lag well behind their public-sector counterparts in terms of job quality, compensation and opportunities for career advancement. Because of the expected growth in California's elderly population, EMS jobs will grow quickly over the next 10 years and, with stronger standards, could provide a ladder to the middle class for many California families.

The study looks at working conditions addressed in the Emergency Medical Services Workers' Bill of Rights, or Assembly Bill 263, proposed by Caliifornia Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez (D-Pomona/Chino).

"Emergency medical technicians and paramedics provide vital health care to California families," said Ken Jacobs, chair of the UC Berkeley Labor Center. "Addressing will help make careers sustainable for workers while improving our emergency medical care."

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