Any sense of optimism quickly evaporated when talks between paramedics and the City broke down ten minutes after commencing at 1:00 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
After lobbying Mayor Bill Smith and other municipal representatives in the province, the Provincial Government is poised to effectively rescind the right to strike for Emergency Medical Service employees. It is anticipated the Provincial Government will effectively delay strike action by imposing a Disputes Inquiry Board today.
Randy Littlechild, President of CUPE Local 3197, summarized his frustration and disappointment. The City issued a lockout notice in 1995 and public safety wasnt a concern. Over the last year we experienced 6000 system alerts and were short, on average, two ambulance units every day. When the City compromises public safety it isnt a concern. When we work our tails, seek parity with other health care professionals and a little dignity, the Province and the City want to criminalize us.
We attempt to get to a call as soon as we can, but theres 250 of us and were responsible for 80% of the call volume, says Littlechild. All other essential services earn significantly more than Paramedics. Stress and burnout ensure most paramedics are not likely to retire, claims Littlechild.
Jakki Kennedy-Lehr, Vice President of the Local Union, is not certain a strike can be averted. We dont want to withdraw services, its not in our character, but the City wont negotiate. They want a third party to do their bidding for them. Public safety isnt their concern. The City doesnt want to be held accountable.
Kennedy-Lehr explains that the public safety concern is merely a political ploy. In 1992 the City mandated a 7 minute response time, this has been amended to 9 minutes and can only be met 80% of the time. In the case of a cardiac arrest, a person can have irreversible brain damage after 4-6 minutes. Public safety is compromised by a refusal to make a genuine commitment to adequate Emergency Medical Services. We, as Paramedics, want improved standards through more resources, as proper patient care is paramount to us, states Kennedy-Lehr.
No further talks have been scheduled.
For further information contact:
Randy Littlechild 993-3525 (cell) or Jakki Kennedy-Lehr 953-3525 (cell)