Cleveland EMS plans sit-in as employees continue to work without contract

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CLEVELAND (WJW)-- In 2019, Cleveland EMS transported more than 80,000 patients in a year for the first time. They also answered more than 120,000 911 calls.

Now, in 2020, first responders are dealing with their own emergency, in a heated contract battle against the city of Cleveland.

"We had mental health as a injury, as a hazardous duty injury, is what they're really complaining about," Paul Melhuish said.

Melhuish, president of the Cleveland Association of Rescue Employees, or CARE Local 1975, said a recent court decision, in support of their legally-arbitrated and awarded contract, is still not being implemented by the city of Cleveland. He said city leaders want to fight against mental health support for the union.

The city told FOX 8 it plan to appeal Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Russo’s ruling.

"It's to the point now it seems like a hurry up and wait kind of thing. And it's just a stall tactic and we don't, it's just a waste of money at this point going back and forth trying to do stall tactics on people. It just doesn't make any sense," Melhuish said.

Close to 300 EMS workers and dispatchers have been working without a contract now for three years and nine months. CARE members are still being compensated at 2015 wages and retro pay owed is more than $3 million.

Union leaders said they fear they’ll soon have to start the process all over again.

"The city is trying to vacate the entire contract, which means they're trying to take away the money that really isn't in dispute. They're trying to sit there and get rid of the entire contract, instead of sitting down and figuring out what has to be done," Melhuish said.

The union planning a sit-in at the city council meeting Monday beginning at 7 p.m.

A city spokeswoman declined comment, citing the pending litigation.

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