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News : EMS Union Fighting AMR Plan to Close Call Center for Taunton
Dec 22, 2014 -- Medical emergency communications workers for Taunton are fighting against a decision by American Medical Response to close down their dispatch center and lay off its 24 employees by the end of the month.
United EMS Workers announced last week that it requested an injunction from the National Labor Relations Board to block the closing of a dispatch center in Natick that handles 911 EMS calls for Taunton. American Medical Response, which has a contract to serve Taunton, notified its employees on Oct. 30 about their intent to shut down the Natick Communication Center on Tuesday, Dec. 30.
"It’s just not the right thing to do," dispatcher John Wallace, of Attleboro, said. "It’s not the right thing, obviously for us. Everyone has a family. Collectively, the dispatchers, we are lucky to have people who have been in the business 20 to 30 years. It’s lots of experience they are going to let go. We feel it’s the right thing to keep the center open here."
AMR told workers that they plan to relocate dispatch services for Taunton to an existing call center in Springfield, according to the union. Wallace and United EMS Workers said that this is bad news for Taunton residents in need of emergency medical services, and for the paramedics in the city who work closely with the dispatchers.
"There will be people injured or dying, and the dispatcher is not familiar with city they are dispatching," said Wallace, who has been in the business since 1978. "In Springfield, they don’t have the experience or live in the community. People there probably haven’t even heard of Taunton."
Wallace said most of the AMR dispatchers in Natick come from the Taunton area, and have developed a familiarity with the city’s geography. The dispatchers at the call center in Springfield will not recognize Taunton landmarks, Wallace said.
"You’ll have a caller say, ‘I’m on the side of Girlies,’ or ‘By the Bubblette,’ and they’re not going to know what you are talking about," he said. "It just doesn’t make sense."
AMR, asked to respond to the union’s statement, said that it is in the midst of negotiations about the matter with the federal labor board. AMR said that it is meeting with union representatives on Tuesday, and will work in good faith to address any concerns.
"AMR is currently in litigation with the National Labor Relations Board," said Ron Cunningham, a spokesman for the company. "We have fully complied with all obligations under labor law and are meeting with our labor union on Dec. 23, where we will work in good faith to resolve any issues. In situations where employees are being laid off."
United EMS Workers said last week that, so far, AMR has refused to discuss the decision. In addition to filing an unfair labor practice charge, the union is also seeking an injunction to postpone the closing while the case is litigated.
United EMS Workers also said that keeping the EMS dispatch facility located closer to Taunton was important enough to Taunton that the city government included the location of the Natick center in the city’s service agreement with AMR.
Mike Ally, a paramedic from Taunton, said having experienced dispatchers who are familiar with the city is extremely helpful.
"They are local guys we have worked with for years and years," said Ally, a paramedic with 23 years of experience. "I understand the idea of consolidation, but I think you lose that intangible type of knowledge that comes along with a dispatch that is more local. It means I know there is someone in that dispatch center who can get you those resources; you know it’s someone you can rely on."
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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About American Medical Response:
American Medical Response, Inc. (AMR) is a United States manager and provider of medical transportation. AMR provides emergency response and dispatch services, non-emergency transport services, air ambulance services, event medical services, managed transportation services (paratransit) and paramedic and EMT training. AMR is locally operated in 42 states and the District of Columbia. AMR employs nearly 20,000 paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), nurses, doctors and support staff.
Published: Tuesday, December 23, 2014