Two privately run ambulance services are on strike in New Brunswick. The Eastern Ambulance Service attendants in Grand Falls, members of CUPE Local 4356, have been on strike since February 18. They were joined on April 18 by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the Southern Victoria Ambulance Service, members of CUPE Local 4226. Both services are owned and operated by the same person, Raymond Durepos. A total of 27 EMTs are affected.
EMTs in both locals are paid an average of two dollars an hour less than those who work directly for the provincial government and they receive no benefits. Their on call rate is only $2.50 an hour and they routinely work up to 96 consecutive hours. That is unsafe and unreasonable by any standard. The members are calling for new staff to be hired so that there can be eight full-time staff on at every shift. To preserve quality and to ensure that skills are up to date, the EMTs are also demanding that employer provide training on an ongoing basis.
While both ambulance services are privately owned, the province provides the funding and bears responsibility for ensuring that quality and safety standards are maintained. The province and the owner have each been blaming the other for the dispute.
Striking workers in both locals are stepping up efforts to get the province and the employer to stop passing the buck.