Paramedics undergo training of up to two years and can insert intravenous lines into patients and give shots. EMTs only undergo 10 weeks of training and provide more basic care such as CPR and administering oxygen.
The Nutter administration, however, has made it clear the city plans to make changes.
Michael Resnick, the city's director of public safety, said the current two-paramedic model for ALS cases is unnecessary.
"State standards only require that one paramedic and one EMT be stationed to each unit," he said.
Hiring more EMTs and pairing them with paramedics will allow the EMS system to distribute staff more evenly and cover more territory, Resnick said.
Deputy Fire Commissioner David Gallagher said paramedics were concentrated on too few ambulances. He said the change would net an increase in coverage, with as many as eight more available ambulances on some days. The proposal will also put additional paramedics in SUVs that will respond as a second paramedic to ALS calls.
The union said the move is really about cutting costs: An EMT's salary is 30 percent less than that of a paramedic.
The union was notified 10 days ago that the issue would be discussed at Wednesday's Civil Service Commission meeting.
The union was brought in "late in the game," said Schulle, who was joined on Tuesday by State Reps. Michael O'Brien and Angel Cruz, and City Councilman Bobby Henon.
"You have a lot of friends over in City Council," Henon, who called the proposed cuts "irresponsible," told Schulle.
Inquirer staff writer Troy Graham contributed to this article.