May 8, 2001 (Perth-Andover) Almost three thousands copies of an open letter, written by the striking ambulance workers of the Southern Victoria Ambulance Service, are being distributed today to all homes in the ambulance services catchment area. The letter is also being run as an ad in todays issue of the Victoria County Record.
The letter reads, in part, We are emergency medical technicians (EMTs)wed much rather be at work, taking care of the people who need us. Unfortunately, Raymond Durepos, who owns the ambulance service, and the Bernard Lord government, have put us in a position where we have no choice.
To Raymond Durepos, the ambulance service is a business. The more he can cut corners, the more he makes. But to you and your family, the ambulance service is vital, and cutting corners can cost lives. Its the provincial government that funds the ambulance service. They cant duck their responsibility to assure quality care.
The EMTs are calling on the province to intervene in negotiations. Employees of the Southern Victoria ambulance service routinely work 96 consecutive hours, a level they believe to be both unsafe and unreasonable. In addition, they are calling for a publicly funded training program and province-wide standards that will apply to all ambulance services. This will help mitigate the effects of privatization which the EMTs feel have led to sub-standard equipment and forced Durepos employees to pay for their own ongoing training.
Finally, Perth-Andovers EMTs earn an average of two dollars less an hour than those employed directly by the province. They receive no medical benefits.
The letter concludes with the following: In a medical emergency, a few seconds can make the difference between life and death. The skills of an ambulance attendant are of critical importance. We believe this community deserves a high quality ambulance service, staffed by well-trained attendants. Dont you?
Community members are encouraged to call the province and express their concerns. The EMTs have been on strike since April 18. They join the EMTs of the Eastern Region Ambulance Service (Grand Falls area) who have been on strike since February 18. This second privatized service is also owned by Raymond Durepos. The striking workers, members of CUPE Local 4356, have raised all the same concerns regarding safety and quality of service as those in Perth-Andover.