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CUPE paramedics in Niagara have scored a major victory against contracting out. The ambulance paramedics, members of CUPE 7100, have convinced Niagara regional council to assume direct control of ambulance services next year. Currently ambulance services are contracted out to a local hospital, under terms that expire in 2004.

Foiling a handful of private companies waiting in the wings to bid on the contract, the local convinced council members that the municipality is best-placed to run the service. It just makes sense for them to bring the work in-house, says Larry Butters, paramedic and vice-president of the local. Its far more cost-effective for the Region to operate both the ambulance fleet and the dispatch service. And it will provide more stability for paramedics and for the public now that we wont have contracts flipping every few years.

We were not going to let them turn the ambulance service over to the private sector, and we would have made it an election issue if necessary, says local president Steve Palmer. But it didnt come to that, because regional council recognized that this community needs an ambulance service that has ongoing safe delivery of public health care as its only priority. In the aftermath of Torontos SARS crisis, it wasnt hard to argue the importance of public accountability.

Niagara regional council could assume delivery of the service as early as April 1, 2004.