Richmond paramedical workers win classification fight

Arbitrator says qualifications and duties merit higher salary rate

Nine paramedical workers at the Richmond Alcohol and Drug Action Team have good reason to celebrate after arbitrator Bruce Greyell ruled that the qualifications and responsibilities for their jobs merit a Level 11 classification; not Level 8 as their employer claimed.

R.A.D.A.T. provides outpatient services through a clinic in Richmond. These HEU members are highly skilled workers who service approximately 500 clients by providing assessments, interventions, individual and group counselling/therapy and school-based and educational programs for persons who are involved in or being affected by substance misuse and/or gambling addiction problems.

They clearly fit in the paramedical classification and wage schedule, but “substance abuse” counsellors are not included in the job family descriptions found in the collective agreement or in its miscellaneous rates provisions. Because classification of these particular workers was not clear cut, and there was no agreement between the parties, the matter went to binding arbitration as provided by the collective agreement.

There was agreement between the parties that three of the employees hold a Masters degree, four hold bachelors degrees and two possess at least the equivalent of a BA.

HEABC — representing R.A.D.A.T — proposed to award a $125 a month differential to the holders of the MAs, but to classify all of the workers at the same salary level — Level 8.

The union did not disagree with putting them all at the same salary level. But HEU successfully argued that all of the bargaining unit work at R.A.D.A.T. most closely resembles the social work job family and should be placed at the Level 11 salary level.

Greyell based his decision on the employer’s expected academic qualifications for the jobs and the duties and responsibilities exercised by employees once they are hired.

“The employer requires a certain level of education and experience for these positions,” says HEU assistant secretary-business manager Zorica Bosancic. “And they should pay a fair wage in return for the performance of these duties and the exercise of responsibilities.”

The nine bargaining unit employees include four counsellors, one caseworker/counsellor in home detox, one youth counsellor, one school-based prevention worker, one gambling counsellor and one outreach youth counsellor.