BROCKVILLE, Ont. – Leeds Grenville EMS Paramedics, members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), were present to witness Thursday morning’s United Counties Council meeting, where councillors approved changes to their own compensation package that could see their pay increase, while the counties push for a strike or lockout with paramedics to try and keep EMS wages among the lowest in the province.
“Despite the fact the province has increased its share of funding for EMS wage costs, the counties are trying to negotiate a wage for paramedics that would make our members among the lowest paid in the province,” said Dave Hone, president of CUPE Local 4440. “Councillors have no trouble addressing their own pay package, yet they seem willing to jeopardize public health and safety by pushing for a strike or lockout in emergency services.”
The Paramedics have been bargaining since December 15, 2006 for a renewal of their collective agreement that expired December 31, 2006, but talks have reached an impasse. The two sides are also required by law to negotiate an essential ambulance services agreement that would govern the level of ambulance services in the event of a strike or lockout, an outcome that CUPE hopes to avoid.
“We say that all ambulance services should be maintained to protect the public interest and that bargaining impasses should be resolved at arbitration without resorting to a strike or lockout,” said John Lepine, a CUPE national representative involved in negotiations for the local. “Unfortunately the counties have vigorously rejected that approach, insisting instead on resolving the dispute by lockout or strike.”
The next steps may involve an application before the Ontario Labour Relations Board asking that it impose an essential services agreement if the parties cannot agree. At the same time either the Counties or CUPE could set the wheels in motion to set a legal lockout or strike deadline, although CUPE insists that arbitration is a more sensible solution in the circumstances.
“All we want is a wage level that is near the average in the Province – it certainly is a reasonable position,” said Hone.
For further information contact:
John Lepine, CUPE national representative: (613) 542-2069
James Chai, CUPE communications: (416) 292-3999