ABBOTSFORD – SN Transport’s 105 unionized patient transfer attendants in B.C. have served 72-hour strike notice, effective at 12:01 am on Monday, March 2. The move follows repeated failed attempts to negotiate a first collective agreement.
CUPE 873-03 stresses that while the workers will be in a legal position to strike, there is no immediate plan to withdraw services. CUPE 873 President Bronwyn Barter explains that “our first priority is to protect the patients we transport – many whom are fragile.” She adds that, “at this time our job action will centre on pressuring the employer to settle a fair contract without affecting patient care.”
The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents patient care and patient transfer attendants (drivers) in SN’s non-emergency patient transfer ambulances. They joined CUPE in May 2014 and have been trying to negotiate a first contract ever since.
Despite meeting more than a dozen times at the bargaining table and agreeing on many issues, several key areas remain unresolved. These include scheduling, wages, benefits and union representation. The Abbotsford-based employer walked out of talks after rejecting a union call for binding mediation that would have brought in an impartial third party to resolve the outstanding issues.
The union maintains that binding mediation is in everyone’s best interest. “Talks have bogged down and a mediator would get us back on track and get us a settlement,” says Barter. “All we’re looking for is a fair and reasonable collective agreement in line with other similar agreements in the sector,” Barter explains, “so that we can concentrate on our jobs – looking after the patients we care about.”
CUPE 873 represents approximately 4,000 B.C. ambulance paramedics and emergency dispatchers as well as the transfer attendants. The attendants are in a separate unit of the union local.