CUPE National President Mark Hancock is calling out the unfair and irresponsible treatment of paramedics and dispatchers in the Niagara Region, which is putting both workers and the public at risk.

Niagara Region paramedics and dispatchers, who are represented by CUPE Local 1019 (known as CUPE 911), currently have more members off on stress leave than any other paramedic service in Ontario. A major contributor to that stress is the repeated bullying and demeaning behaviour committed against paramedics and dispatchers by Niagara EMS management.

“Publicly, management says they care about mental health and stress and PTSD issues that paramedics and dispatchers face, but in private, our members are treated as mere truck numbers,” said Hancock. “Management is forgetting that there are two dedicated, hard-working human beings in each of those trucks, who are delivering life-saving services for the people of this region.”

Paramedics and dispatchers are also constantly understaffed and overworked.

“Management has touted cost-savings from recent bargaining, but it’s easy to see that those savings have exacted a heavy toll on the morale and mental health of paramedics and dispatchers,” said Hancock. “Cost savings like that come with a price, and in this case it’s the massive spikes in sick time and stress leave. It’s losing good staff to other services, and having to hire and train new part times to fill the vacancies. It’s the constant forced overtime. It doesn’t take a genius to understand this cycle isn’t sustainable.”

Hancock says that a breaking point is fast approaching if elected leaders in the region don’t take action soon.

“Paramedics and dispatchers continue to give 110 per cent, sacrificing their time, their mental health, and time with their families, only to be disrespected by management. They’re crumbling under the strain,” Hancock continued.

“Forcing paramedics and dispatchers to work exhausted and understaffed puts the public at risk. The people of the Niagara region deserve to have paramedics and dispatchers who are at the top of their game when there’s an emergency. The regional council needs to start asking hard questions about who the EMS management team is actually serving, because when you look at the state they’re forcing their employees to work in, it certainly isn’t workers or the people of this region.”