VANCOUVER – Striking ambulance paramedics say their employer is intent on intimidating and disciplining ambulance crews who perform the proper legal safety checks on their ambulances.
CUPE 873 says management has instructed emergency dispatch (EMD) members to refuse to acknowledge crews who are booking out of service to perform their legally required safety checks/pre-trip inspections. Upon receiving a call from a crew to state they are out of service, dispatchers have been instructed to respond with “negative, you are to remain available for calls.” Upon receiving a call, EMD’s are to assign it to the crew, and ask “Are you refusing the call?”
According to Ambulance Paramedics of BC president John Strohmaier “this clearly shows management’s intent to intimidate and discipline paramedics who are simply complying with WorkSafeBC regulations and the Motor Vehicle Act.’’ He added that there have been several cases of catastrophic brake failure, including one today in New Westminster and one last week in a Burnaby school yard. “At the least this takes an ambulance out of service, at the most, someone could be injured or worse.
“The union takes this very seriously. We are appalled that the employer would take a stance like this on a fundamental safety issue and have been advised by our legal council that this BC Ambulance Service direction may, in fact, be illegal.”
The union says that the employer’s policy “shouldn’t supercede the law – ambulance crews are required to perform vehicle safety checks/pre-trip inspections for good reason under the Motor Vehicle Act, and that takes about 20 minutes.” The employer claims a two-minute check is sufficient.
Strohmaier added that while under an Essential Services Order the general rule is “obey now - grieve later,” one exception is when obedience would place workers and the public in a clearly dangerous situation. “Catastrophic brake failure is definitely a dangerous situation.”
The 3,500 members of the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, CUPE 873, have been on strike since April 1 for improved staffing, better equipment, wage parity and a multi-year contract.