PENTICTON – More than 50 boisterous union activists and supporters gathered outside Liberal MLA Bill Barisoff’s office Saturday to protest his support of Bill 21.
Accompanied by two ambulances, the marchers waved flags, wore signs and handed out buttons to pedestrians, while motorists honked their horns in support of free collective bargaining for paramedics. BC’s 3,500 striking ambulance paramedics were legislated ‘back to work’ by the BC Liberals in November.
Area members from different unions and paramedics from as far away as Midway joined in the march to put out the message that ‘negotiation not legislation’ is the cornerstone of democratic workers’ rights. Also in attendance were CUPE national representatives Rob Hewitt and Harry Nott. Paul Faoro, CUPE BC general vice-president, warned the crowd that “Bill 21 swiftly takes away the fundamental right of a union to bargain freely, which should concern every labour union member in British Columbia.” His speech was met with huge applause and cheers.
Also on hand were CUPE 523 president Zoë Magnus, representing Okanagan Valley school employees, Kevin Epp, president of the Okanagan-Skaha teacher’s union, Brigid Kemp, president of the South Okanagan Boundary Labour Council, and Brad Fraser, regional vice-president CUPE 873, Ambulance Paramedics.