Ambulance paramedics set to start job action

CUPE Local 873 deserves support of HEU members

HEU members are no doubt aware of the dispute between B.C.’s ambulance paramedics and their employer. CUPE Local 873 (Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.) has been trying to negotiate a fair contract for seven months and they’re getting nowhere. The union has served 72 hours strike notice, and job action could commence as soon as Friday, Aug. 4.

At issue are downsizing, improved training programs, improved response times, reduction in hours of work, on-call compensation and reduction in workloads. The paramedics are also looking for changes to pay scales that would see them compensated for hundreds of hours they now work every year without pay.

“HEU and B.C.’s ambulance paramedics have been strong allies in the fight to improve front-line health care services, oppose health care privatization and strengthen Medicare,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “I urge HEU members to contact CUPE Local 873 members in their communities and lend support to their struggle to win a fair collective agreement that restores our once proud ambulance service.”

The union’s job action strategy is to disrupt management but preserve service to the public. This is not expected to impact HEU work, but members should be advised not to carry out tasks in hospital emergency rooms usually done by ambulance paramedics.

“Although we are outraged that it will take a strike to ensure British Columbians receive a timely emergency medical response by paramedics who are appropriately trained, be assured that the public will not bear the brunt of inept administrators' actions," says says John Strohmaier, president of Local 873. “Emergency Ambulance Services aimed at bringing comfort and security to the public will not be touched by our actions. But other operations will be affected.”