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Paramedics will now have the option to retire earlier without reduced pension benefits, according to the 2005 federal budget.

This is a victory for paramedics and great news for communities, said CUPE National President Paul Moist. Paramedics, with the help of their national union, have fought for the early retirement option for years, and their work has paid off.

The federal government extends early retirement option towards those in what it calls public safety occupations fire fighters, police officers, corrections officers, commercial airline pilots and air traffic controllers. The government is proposing in the 2005 federal budget that paramedics be added to the list. The measure would be retroactive to January 1, 2005, once the budget is passed.

The change means that paramedics can retire with full pensions five years earlier than others with registered pension plans, recognizing that the stress of such occupations merits special consideration. CUPE represents paramedics in many provinces, including B.C., Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick.

The retirement victory comes at a time when paramedics are experiencing a rise in the time it takes to offload patients, the time it takes to officially transfer a patient to a hospital after arriving.

This retirement status will help increase the recognition of the stress that paramedics and other emergency medical services workers are under, said Moist. This victory will help us mobilize to improve working conditions, increase funding and enhance public safety in communities across the country.