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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 21, 2011

No unions
Rescue squads funded by insurance, donations

By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland has two rescue squads providing emergency services, in addition to the emergency medical technicians and paramedics that the town hires and budgets for.

The Western Turnpike and Altamont rescue squads each provide service to different sectors within the town, and also provide mutual aid to the town.

Last month, the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad sent out letters of solicitation to the residents for whom it provides coverage, and some residents covered by the Altamont Rescue Squad received the letters. Denise Schultz, chief of the Western Turnpike squad, said those letters had been sent in error.

“Any solicitations received by residents covered by the Altamont Rescue Squad were a result of their names being on the town of Guilderland tax rolls, which suggests that those Altamont residents that may have received solicitation letters are also town of Guilderland property owners,” Schultz told The Enterprise in an e-mail correspondence.

Altamont village residents are on the Guilderland tax rolls; they receive town services and pay an additional tax for village services.

“I would like to believe it was accidental; even some of our members received the letters,” said Elaine Martin, president of the Altamont Rescue Squad. She wrote a letter to The Enterprise editor, published on April 7.

“We wanted to let people know we are in no way affiliated with Western Turnpike,” said Martin this week. Schultz said no residents covered by the Altamont squad had sent donations to Western Turnpike, and that, if they had, they would have been returned.

“Western Turnpike Rescue Squad believes in and practices integrity,” said Schultz.

Both rescue squads are made up of a combination of volunteers and paid members, and neither has unionized paid employees. However, according to Gary Favro, a labor relations representative in the Emergency Medical Services Division of the United Professional and Service Employees Union Local 1222, some employees of Western Turnpike approached the union last year looking for support.

“We filed a petition on their behalf with the National Labor Relations Board, which led to an election held at the station, within the squad,” said Favro. He said it was a fairly close election, but the squad voted against unionizing.

“We felt some people were intimidated by the chief. She was present during the vote, and we felt that really wasn’t appropriate,” Favro said. He filed an objection, but it was overruled, meaning there can’t be another union election held in the squad for at least one year.

“I really feel they are an underpaid group,” said Favro.

Schultz said the 34 paid members of the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad, which include full-time, part-time, and per diem employees, are paid based on a matrix system that includes longevity and accomplishment. There are also 25 volunteers within the squad.

“All operations of the rescue squad are funded through insurance billing, and an average call is billed at $600,” Schultz explained. She said insurance company payment varies, so the $600 is not always received; approximately 10-percent of the billable calls are bad debt and non-collectable.

Schultz would not comment on the union proposal or election.

The Altamont Rescue Squad is funded differently; it is budget-based through the town of Guilderland, but also practices revenue recovery because it is composed mainly of volunteers.

The squad is also under contract with the town of Knox, which has no rescue squad of its own. Knox pays the Altamont squad $24,192 annually to cover roughly half the town; Helderberg Ambulance covers the other half.

Martin said Altamont has 27 volunteers and 10 paid employees, six of whom are full-time, and four of whom are part-time.

“The salaries are based on longevity and merit raises, and we provide insurance if they want it,” said Martin. She said the paid employees had never discussed unionizing.

The Western Turnpike Rescue Squad responds to approximately 3,300 calls per year, according to Schultz; Martin said the Altamont Rescue Squad answered 870 calls last year.

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