OTTAWA - In an arbitration decision released yesterday, CUPE 503 (Ottawa city workers) achieved a major victory that will improve the working conditions of paramedics in Ottawa and potentially across Ontario.
Ruling on a grievance filed by CUPE 503 after the city refused to provide paramedics with regular meal breaks, arbitrator Joseph Potter held that the Employment Standards Act required the city to ensure that no paramedic works more than five consecutive hours before being given a one-half-hour meal break that is free from any interruption.
CUPE 503 president Jim Robillard stated that the union went to arbitration to ensure that paramedics received the same rights as other Ontario workers in.
“Paramedics work to save lives every day in difficult and stressful conditions. They deserve an opportunity every shift to relax and eat their meal without fear of interruption,” Robillard said.
The granting of meal breaks to paramedics was vigorously opposed by the city, which suggested that any additional resources made available to the ambulance service would be used to reduce response times rather than improve working conditions for paramedics.
CUPE 503 vice-president Brian Madden called city’s position unacceptable. “Paramedics in Ottawa are dedicated individuals who work hard in an underfunded and understaffed system,” he added. “Better ambulance service in Ottawa will not be achieved by depriving paramedics of their rights.”
As a result of the arbitrator’s decision, paramedics in Ottawa will be entitled to two paid, uninterrupted meal breaks in every 12-hour shift. Also, Ottawa paramedics will be receiving some form of individual compensation as a result of the city’s past failure to respect the terms of the Employment Standards Act.
CUPE 503 represents more than 8,000 public sector employees in Ottawa, including paramedics and ambulance communications officers.
For Further information contact:
Jewitt Morrison and Associates
Legal Counsel for Local 503