About 30 members of CUPE 873 paraded through the city handing out material calling on the province to stop stalling and start negotiating in the two-month-old dispute. Support was high with lots of horns honking and drivers waving as the paramedics wound through town. But when the public rally arrived outside the Penticton Regional Hospital the mood quickly changed.
An Interior Health Authority official demanded the paramedics stop handing out leaflets and leave. CUPE 873 regional vice-president Brad Fraser says, “The official said the order came from Victoria and that they would have us removed and charged with trespassing! We then filled him in on the main issues in the dispute – respect, fairness and the quality of ambulance services in B.C. I think he was sympathetic, but was following orders from above.”
Fraser says more IH officials arrived, insisting the paramedics had somehow formed an illegal picket line, even after the paramedics explained they were simply handing out information and had every right to be there. The police were actually called by the officials and reluctantly told the paramedics it was “highly likely” they could be arrested. The 873 members made their point and eventually departed, but not before the public in Penticton had a chance to witness the lack of respect shown by representatives of Victoria for our ambulance paramedics.
To end the event, the paramedics checked further with enforcement officials and found that they were well within their rights and could even hand out pamphlets inside a public hospital. “All in all,” says Fraser, “it was a good day, and we are looking forward to joining our Kelowna colleagues for the Bridge to Kelowna General Hospital march and rally on Monday, June 22.”