SALMON ARM – Striking ambulance paramedics say they are cautiously optimistic after a two-hour meeting today with Health Services Minister George Abbott.
Ambulance Paramedics of BC president John Strohmaier called the discussion “useful” adding that “it appears the minister is starting to realize the value of talking with us.”
Abbott had repeatedly refused to meet, saying he would ‘deal with the paramedics’ after the May 12 provincial election. But Premier Gordon Campbell promised action on the dispute after encountering striking paramedics in Prince George Wednesday and again in Kamloops yesterday.
The 3,500 members of CUPE 873 have been on strike since April 1 fighting for adequate ambulance staffing levels to ensure better emergency response times, wage parity with other emergency response workers and a multi-year deal for stability and public confidence.
Strohmaier said that while Abbott refused to discuss monetary and wage parity issues, the minister did agree to “take a look at public safety comparators as a step towards a framework for negotiations.” Strohmaier called it an “overdue first step” and said another meeting has been scheduled with Abbott for next week.
“We are very willing to meet with the government and discuss any of our issues, but we continue to push for an independent mediator to get us back to the negotiating table and on our way to a settlement,” Strohmaier explained.
“Make no mistake,” he added, “we will carry on with our strike actions until we have a resolution that safeguards ambulance emergency response services in every community in B.C.”
Contact: BJ Chute, Director of Public Education, Ambulance Paramedics of BC: 604.218.6169
Murray Bush, CUPE National Communications Representative: 778.554.2234