FREDERICTON Ambulance employees in Grand Falls are on strike for a living wage and decent working conditions, but they are also striking to improve their ability to save lives, says the New Brunswick Council of Ambulance Service Unions.
Ambulance workers dont go on strike for themselves, says the provincial council. We go on strike because we know that there is something dangerously wrong with the system.
In this case, the private employer has failed to pay these 17 workers an adequate salary. They make far less than many other ambulance workers in the province. Other ambulance workers who work at the Hospital Corporation make between $14.69 and $15.56 per hour.
The employer has hidden behind the governments well-known guideline of 1.5 per cent a year in wage increases. He has failed to provide working conditions that come even close to the quality of those in other ambulance stations.
The ability of the people replacing the workers on strike is in question. In a recent incident, a family watched as an injured family member was left on a gurney because the untrained person did not know how to lift it.
Also, the striking workers say they must pay for their own training and do it on their own time. There is no assistance from the employer or the government.
Four things must happen to avoid further deterioration of public safety.
- Pay the ambulance workers wage parity at the hospital corporation hourly rate.
- Ensure that all ambulance stations meet the same high standards.
- Set up a publicly funded training program.
- Co-ordinate bargaining at a common provincial table.
These ambulance employees want to provide the best possible life-saving service to the public, the council said. But they have been hindered from doing so and then put in the position of being blamed when they strike to improve the system.
When the previous government privatized the service, it washed its hands of the responsibility to ensure public safety and then tied the hands of employers by limiting their funding to 1.5 per cent for pay increases, the council said. We can expect more strikes of this nature if the Lord government does not act.
Contact: Nancie Quigley, CUPE Ambulance Union Co-ordinator, (506) 857-2816.