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December 2, 2009

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Bill 21 Rally cites community concerns

CUPE 951 members (l to r) Kirk Mercer, Angela Thurston and Sheilaigh Allan.CUPE 951 members (l to r) Kirk Mercer, Angela Thurston and Sheilaigh Allan.VICTORIA – More than 100 CUPE members, ambulance paramedics, UVIC students and community supporters came out in the provincial capital today to serve notice on the B.C. Liberals that our right to negotiate is not negotiable.

 Members of CUPE locals from Victoria and the surrounding communities made their presence felt outside Liberal MLA Ida Chong's constituency office, calling on her to respect the rights of workers and the collective bargaining process.

Speakers emphasized the importance of the work our 3,500 ambulance paramedics do, and pledged their support to their labour dispute, noting that "they are there for us when we need them, now it's our turn to do the same." The paramedics were legislated “back to work” on Nov. 7 with Bill 21.

UVIC Undergraduate Society spokeswoman Veronica Harrison emphasized that this dispute is causing concern for those about to enter the workforce, pointing out that what is done to one group of workers could just as easily be done to another.

A community member noted that the situation is of particular concern for citizens who depend on paramedics, and who are the people most at risk when government cuts jeopardize paramedics' ability to do their job.

CUPE member Craig Ashbourne pointed out that "these workers had the courage to stand up to the government about the fact they were understaffed and underpaid, and the response of the government was to slap them down. Their fellow workers won't sit by and allow that to happen."

The next B.C. event in CUPE’s campaign against the Ambulance Paramedics Collective Agreement Act (Bill 21) and in support of free collective bargaining takes place in Kamloops on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 12 noon at the Riverside Park Band Shell (corner of Lorne Street West and 2nd Avenue).

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