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August 17, 2000, VancouverAfter months of fruitless negotiations emergency dispatchers who work for E-Comm in Vancouver, members of CUPE Local 873, have voted 97% in favour of taking strike action as a final means of forcing E-Comm to negotiate a full contract that will deal with all working conditions including overtime, sick time, benefits and wages.

These workers, primarily women, have been treated as second class workers by this employer, said John Strohmaier, President of CUPE Local 873 Emergency Dispatchers. They work for an agency created by government with the objective of setting an exemplary standard in state of the art emergency communications. The current mess they have made with labour relations is an example of just how far the corporation has fallen short of its creators expectations.

Meena Cheema, spokesperson for the Emergency Dispatchers says, The E-Comm corporation claims to be running a 21st century emergency communications operation, but I can assure you on behalf of the 200 Emergency Dispatchers that E-Comms draconian employee relations belongs in the 7th century.

Some of the 140 outstanding issues on the table include hours of work, forced overtime, management refusal to allow workers to take accrued time off, sick leave (emergency dispatchers are only allowed 4 consecutive days of sick leave per year) and wages.

E-Comm simply does not understand what it means to always be on call, said Cheema. Nor do they appear to understand just how important well-trained professionals are to ensuring that our emergency dispatch system operates at an optimum level.

Emergency dispatchers are the air traffic controllers of the roadways, said Strohmaier. I cant understand how little respect is shown to these workers, who are so often the link between life and death not only for the public but for emergency personnel including police, fire and ambulance paramedics.

Emergency Dispatchers will meet at the Labour Relations Board on Friday to establish essential service levels. Its possible that 72-hours strike notice could be given as early as Monday, August 21, 2000.

Emergency Dispatchers, CUPE Local 873, have been attempting to negotiate a contract since January. It seems quite obvious to emergency dispatchers, said Cheema, that our employer wants to minimize the number of working conditions included in the contract aiming instead to maintain outdated working conditions via outdated administrative policies and practices.

John Strohmaier
President, CUPE Local 873
(604) 728-2741
Meena Cheema
Emergency Dispatchers
(604) 722-4611

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