Paramedic talks stalled, Jackson Co. Board considers declaring impasse

They serve nearly 60,000 people in Jackson County, Illinois, but paramedics there have been working without a contract for a year and a half.

Negotiations, which began more than 2 years ago, remain deadlocked. The paramedics union is seeking a 12 percent raise over four years, but county leaders are offering only an 8 percent increase.

According to AFSCME Council 31 representative Jeremy Noelle, paramedics serve an essential role in our community.

"They're the men and women that are on the streets saving lives, and you can't discount that," said Noelle.

After Jackson County Paramedics rejected an 8 percent raise from the Jackson County Board, Labor Committee member Keith Larkin says talks have been at a stand still.

"When you compare the ambulance service in Jackson County to surrounding counties in southern Illinois as a whole, they're paid currently about 30 percent higher than the next closest agency," said Larkin.

"I was informed last Thursday that the committee was going to impose a last, best, and final offer," said Noelle.

If the county declares an impasse in talks, paramedics have three options: accept the deal, head to arbitration, or strike.

"We'd like to have another sit down," said Noelle. "We figure we can hash something out. We have agreed to pull the major sticking point for the county, which was longevity, and hope that they see that as an olive branch to sit back down with us."

In the event of a strike, Jackson County leaders would have to reverse their own ordinance and hire outside paramedic help.

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