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Dozens of CUPE health care workers bolstered picket lines during CUPE 3642’s one day strike April 15.

The local’s 50 members, who field medical emergency calls and dispatch ambulances, are allowed to strike only one hour per day per person, under Québec’s essential services law.

The dispatchers are looking for wage parity with their colleagues at Montréal’s 911 service.

CUPE 3642 president Martin Doyon blamed the low salaries paid to dispatchers for the difficulty the service has in recruiting and retaining employees.

The job is also highly stressful and requires a high level of training.

Dispatchers send ambulances in response to emergency calls, and coach callers through emergency first aid procedures until the ambulance arrives.

Montréal’s dispatchers earn 32 per cent less than their 911 colleagues and between 40 and 60 per cent less than those in Alberta, BC and Ontario.

CUPE 3642’s contract expired in June 2003. More than 45 negotiation sessions have failed to produce an agreement.

The union has produced a video about the dispatchers’ working conditions that includes a harrowing re-enactment of an emergency call