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EMS union: Detroit no longer covering workman's comp gap

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Joe Barney from Detroit's EMS union said the city is no longer covering the 20 percent workman's comp doesn't pay. Joe Barney from Detroit's EMS union said the city is no longer covering the 20 percent workman's comp doesn't pay.
DETROIT (WJBK) -

With a department already in distress, Detroit EMS has been dealt another blow.  We're told they just found out if workers get hurt on the job, they shouldn't expect the city to pay.

"We didn't know about this.  It's been instituted out of nowhere.  It's not fair," said Joe Barney, who represents Detroit's EMS workers.

He told us if his members now get injured on the job, they will no longer get paid by the city.

He just learned workers initially will be forced to use their sick time, and if they don't have it, they're out of a paycheck.

"I couldn't believe that they decided that they were not going to take care of us the way they have in the past," said Robert Reames, who has worked for EMS for five years.

He has been assaulted on the job and has had several surgeries because of work-related injuries.  He also has a very ill daughter at home.  He and his wife, Mary, don't know what they will do if he gets hurt on the job one more time.  With all of the cuts, they can barely make ends meet.

"Being that I don't have any sick time because I have to use it to take care of my family, if I get injured on the job, I go without a paycheck," Reames said.

"Now they're going to tell me they're not going to pay my husband for when he gets injured.  What is my family supposed to do?  My daughter won't be able to get prescriptions.  I won't be able to get prescriptions.  It impacts the family.  How are we going to pay our rent?  How are we going to pay our bills?" Mary Reames said.

Tim Goodman was hurt on the job and out for three months.  He said in one of the nation's most violent cities, EMS workers are assaulted or injured on the job almost every day.

"We have the highest rate of injury of any department or division citywide on a percentage basis.  I don't understand how people can sleep at night making decisions like this," he said.

Normally from the moment they are injured, police, fire and EMS workers are 100 percent covered.  Once the investigation into the injury is complete, workman's comp kicks in 80 percent of their pay and the city makes up the rest.  The same still holds true for police and fire, but the union said the city no longer covers EMS.

The pay continues to change, and Barney claimed the conditions continue to get worse.  EMS is still working with unsafe trucks, responding to often dangerous scenes where police aren't always there to back them up, and now they are being told if they are hurt, they are out of luck.

"If this is the way you're going to treat your public safety workers, then you're not going to have them.  They're leaving in droves," Barney said.

We asked the city's Risk Management Department for comment, but have not yet heard back.  Meanwhile, the Labor Relations Department told us these employees still get workman's comp.

Meanwhile, the union said they found out about the change when two workers that have been off the job because of work-related injuries stopped getting paid.

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