ABBOTSFORD - Striking non-emergency transfer ambulance attendants have put their job action on hold. The 105 members of CUPE Local 873-03 have successfully applied to the BC Labour Relations Board for a mediator in stalled talks with employer SN Transport for a first contract.
CUPE 873-03 stresses that while the workers have been in a legal position to strike since Monday, there is no plan to withdraw services. CUPE 873 President Bronwyn Barter explains that “our first priority is to protect the patients we transport - many of whom are fragile.” She adds that, “our focus remains on pressing the employer to settle a fair contract without affecting patient care.” The union sees getting a mediator as a major step towards a deal.
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. Abbotsford-based SN Transport walked out of talks after rejecting a union call for binding mediation.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees represents patient care and patient transfer attendants (drivers) in non-emergency patient transfer ambulances. They joined the Canadian Union of Public Employees CUPE in July 2014 and have been trying to negotiate a first collective agreement ever since.
Now that the union’s application for a mediator to the LRB has been filed and accepted, an LRB appointed third party will lead the talks. All job action is on hold. If a first collective agreement is not reached within 20 days through negotiation, the mediator can recommend binding arbitration.
Barter says “mediation is in everyone’s best interest – the talks have bogged down and a mediator can help get us back on track to a settlement. All we’re looking for is a fair and reasonable collective agreement 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.