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CUPE Local 873 is voting this week on a tentative agreement reached between the provincial government and the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, ending a seven-month-old strike.

Everyone will benefit from this new agreement, said local president John Strohmaier. But the big winner is the public since our strike was about ensuring a more stable and improved ambulance service for all British Columbians.

We revealed many flaws in the service during our strike and these can now be addressed in the interest of public safety, Strohmaier added. Part of addressing those problems was giving the 3,500 members a long-deserved wage increase. The wage offer is 3, 2 and 2 per cent with a cost of living increase in the last two years of the five-year agreement. Equally important, paramedics will finally be paid for the number of hours they work.

Also with this agreement, the paramedics will make real gains in securing a continuing medical education program. This was a sticking point during negotiations because they felt the current reclassification system was designed to intimidate rather than educate.

The ratification vote will be completed by the end of the week. Meantime, emergency dispatchers (sub-local 873-02), who have been on strike since September, are also intensifying their efforts to achieve a settlement.