PRINCE GEORGE – More than 150 workers and community supporters marched through downtown Prince George today protesting the B.C. government’s repressive Bill 21.
The march ended in a rally outside Prince George – Valemount MLA Shirley Bond’s Office at lunchtime. The marchers were cheered by car drivers honking their support.
Participants came from as far away as Prince Rupert, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek to voice their opposition to the Bill that stripped CUPE 873 ambulance paramedics of their right to strike while they were voting on an offer from the government. That marked a shameful first in Canadian labour history. The message to Bond and her fellow B.C. Liberal MLAs was clear – collective bargaining is a Charter right and Bill 21 takes this right away from workers across the province.
CUPE BC general vice-president Steve Storch reviewed the negative effects of the legislation on paramedics and the threat it poses for more than 200,000 public-sector workers entering into bargaining next year.
CUPE Northern Area District Council president Dan Weiman told the crowd about his volunteer rescue work and his experiences working side-by-side with rural paramedics. He voiced his outrage at the lack of respect the provincial government has shown our first responders and said it was shameful that part -time paramedics make less money than coffee shop workers.
Local Paramedics who joined the protest were heartened by the support from both the public and fellow union members.
At the end of the rally, the CUPE representatives tried to speak to Shirley Bond in her office – but were unsuccessful. They left their contact information and requested a meeting with her to follow up on their concerns.