Paramedics picket over wages, hours

On their day off, about 50 paramedics and EMS staff took to the streets of Bradenton, complaining they are overworked and underpaid.

"It makes me feel good when I go and save people's lives," said Kevin Butler.

Butler, a paramedic, has been doing it for nine years and said the pay hasn't kept up.

"You can't roll over because you don't have enough money. You've got to find a way to get more money. Sometimes I work fixing cars on the side and things like that," he said.

Sherri Pellien said she hasn't seen a raise in years and the hours are hard to keep.

"I have had to work 48 hours straight for many years to support my family because my 24-on, 48-off is not enough to support my family," said Pellien.

Paramedics and EMTs say it is about trying to provide a better life for their families. Most say they make, on average, about $11 an hour.

"We have recognized that we need to increase that level of compensation just to be equitable in the market place," said Karen Windon.

Manatee County said they have tried to negotiate a number of times over the past two years. 

According to a press release, the county offered a $5,000 increase in September, which the union shot down.

Deputy County Administrator Karen Windon said she understands where the paramedics are coming from.
She started her career in EMS.

"I understand that line of work. I understand their schedules. We want to have a fair and well compensated workforce, but with fiscal constraints coming out of that recession trying to balance those dollars across the organization is a tough type of balance to achieve," she said.

Those that took to the streets are just hoping for some relief.

"Let them see what we see and what we do and how hard we work," added Pellien.