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VANCOUVERBC Health Minister George Abbott has rejected calls for negotiations with striking ambulance paramedics.

Repeated union requests to get an independent mediator and return to the bargaining table were met yesterday with a flat refusal from Abbott. A health ministry representative told CUPE 873 president John Strohmaier that Abbott was not interested in talks until after the May 12 provincial election. The 3,500 Ambulance Paramedics of BC have been on strike since April 1, but continue to work under essential services.

The minister’s messenger reiterated that there is already a mediator involved. There isn’t. The paramedics report that misinformation has been repeated by Liberal MLAs and election candidates across the province. A Labour Relations Board mediator, brought in earlier, booked out of the dispute weeks ago.

“We have an ambulance service that is critical and we have ambulance paramedics without a collective agreement, said Strohmaier. We have tried to get this back on track, but at every turn we have been stonewalled by the minister.”

Strohmaier went on to say Abbott’s message intimated that ‘once the Liberals are re-elected,’ he would ‘deal with the paramedics.’

The paramedics are fighting for adequate ambulance staffing levels to ensure better emergency response times, wage parity with other emergency response workers and a multi-year deal for stability and public confidence. The employer, the BC Ambulance Service, offered only a one-year deal with a three-per-cent wage hike.

Ambulance paramedics say they will be on hand at 6 pm today at BC Attorney-General Wally Oppal’s South Delta campaign launch to remind the government that the ambulance service is in critical condition and that every second counts.