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Seventeen ambulance technicians in Grand Falls, NB walked off the job February 18 to back demands for a wage hike based on cost of living increases.

The employer is offering us 1.5 per cent a year, said CUPE representative Rodolphe Martin. Our demand of 5 per cent corresponds exactly to the rise in the cost of living once deductions are calculated.

The owner of the ambulance service says he is caught in the middle with the government unwilling to increase his grant so that he can pay more.

CUPE Local 4356 represents the seven full-time and 10 part-time members who work at one of dozens of small private ambulance services in the province. The government privatized the service, but the small firms continue to get their funding from the public purse.

These workers will not return to work without the increase they are demanding, Martin said. We are prepared to halt service in this region for the duration of the strike.

The local has been without a collective agreement since April 2000. The employer has hired scabs claiming they are fully qualified.