BC paramedics petition for essential service designation

Jan 23 2017, 5:49 pm

A new petition is currently circulating to amend the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act to designate BC Paramedics as an essential service.

The designation would also remove the right of ambulance paramedics to strike, and the right of their employer to lockout during an impasse in collective bargaining.

But the main goal of the amendment petition is to give ambulance paramedics the same collective bargaining rights as firefighters and police officers.

“When you call 911, they ask if you want police, fire, or ambulance, yet police and fire are the only ones protected by essential service legislation,” Josh Henshaw, the initiative proponent, told Daily Hive.

Henshaw said ambulance paramedics and dispatchers are “in a very precarious position where we are forced to bargain in a large bargaining group comprised mostly of hospital support staff such as clerks, cleaning staff, and technicians.”

In total, paramedics and dispatchers make make up less than 10% of the bargaining unit, so “we really have no say in crucial votes that could lead to job action.”

This is a problem, Henshaw said, because “the taxpayer deserves an ambulance service free of the risk of service interruptions from strike or lockout.”

Points from proposed amendment include:

  • Re-naming the act to the Ambulance, Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act;
  • Change the definition of “employer” under the Act to include the employer of members of a paramedics’ union;
  • Defining the paramedics union as a bargaining unit in which the majority of employees are engaged in ambulance paramedic duties.”

Timing important

Henshaw said he first had the idea for this initiative almost two years ago, but wanted to make sure that it was something both the public and the paramedics wanted.

The timing was another factor as well.

“The way the Initiative Act works, if we get enough signatures to force a province wide vote, those votes may only happen on fixed dates every three years, with the next available date being in September 2017,” he said. “That’s the main factor in why we’re petitioning at this time.”

At the end of the day, he added, ambulance paramedics and dispatchers “love their work, and they don’t want to be put in a position where a strike or lockout could happen.”

Information on canvassing events surrounding the bill and petition is available online.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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