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RICHMOND-CUPE 873 members have given their leadership a 96 per cent mandate for strike action if necessary in their upcoming negotiations with the provincial government.

A record 70 per cent of the 3,500 ambulance paramedics took part in the mail-in ballot. The current collective agreement expires April 1. A mediator has been requested and talks are expected to centre on better emergency response times for patients and improved wages and working conditions.

CUPE 873 president John Strohmaier said his members don’t want a strike, they “want a new collective agreement that provides the patients we serve with the emergency response times and services they deserve.”

CUPE 873 recently launched a province-wide Critical Condition campaign demanding that the B.C. government improve deteriorating emergency services.

B.C. paramedics are falling behind the wages paid to other paramedics across Canada,” Strohmaier said. “Our members have received only a 2 per cent wage increase in the past four years and we are now paid 19 per cent less than Metro Toronto paramedics and 23 per cent less than paramedics in Oshawa” for the same work, Strohmaier said.