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September 20, 2009

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Paramedics’ talks resume

VANCOUVER - Talks are back on between the Ambulance Paramedics of BC and the employer. The two bargaining committees will meet Tuesday in Vancouver with third-party mediator Mark Atkinson in attendance.

The development came Sunday following weekend discussions between CUPE 873, CUPE BC and the BC Ambulance Service.

At a Friday support rally for paramedics in Richmond, CUPE 873 president John Strohmaier directed members to work only their regularly scheduled shifts. In view of the government’s recognition that this dispute must be resolved at the bargaining table, that direction has been rescinded.

CUPE 873 will be bargaining for recruitment and retention, wages, health and safety and training. The union’s most recent offer for settlement, rejected by the government, included the appointment of an industrial inquiry commissioner to look into the broken ambulance service. Strohmaier says that continues to be vital part of their bargaining mandate. Staffing levels are also on the table.

Strohmaier points to the BCAS itself reporting in a Sunday memorandum that, “In the 24 hours immediately following the union’s (Friday) direction, the ambulance service experienced a significant decrease in available ambulances, including a 20-30 per cent drop in available ambulances in the Lower Mainland, a 60 per cent drop in dispatch staff in the Interior, and complete outages in some communities.”

“The people of British Columbia expect and deserve the best ambulance service possible, and a negotiated settlement that addresses our concerns is the best way to help that happen,” says Strohmaier.

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