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Vancouver Outraged emergency dispatchers are calling for the government to act after 18 dispatchers became ill resulting from an unknown air-borne substance that infiltrated the Lower Mainlands Emergency Communications Centre (E-Comm) early yesterday morning.

At approximately 2:00 a.m., the 911 dispatchers (members of CUPE local 873-02) experienced skin and eye irritation, shortness of breath, nausea and stomach pains. Several dispatchers were administered oxygen and by 5:00 a.m., E-Comm called on B.C. Ambulance Paramedics and the Vancouver Fire Department for assistance.

E-Comms emergency dispatchers are the backbone for the Lower Mainlands emergency services, says Meena Cheema, chairperson of CUPE local 873-02. Providing a safe, healthy and secure working environment is absolutely essential. Anything less jeopardizes public safety.

The E-Comms centre, located on Cassiar and Hastings, was designed as a post-disaster building able to withstand major earthquakes. But since its launch in November 1998, the building itself has been plagued with structural and security problems. In October 1999, major structural problems became apparent after staff noticed major cracks in the walls; in November the roof sprung a leak; and two weeks ago, management refused to address workers concerns after shots were fired at the building in the middle of the night.

E-Comm is supposed to be the Lower Mainlands emergency centre, not the centre of emergencies, says Cheema. Calling on emergency personnel to bail E-Comm out of its own crises is becoming all too common. Its time that the government steps in and calls an investigation into E-Comms operations and internal emergency protocols.

For over a year, the more than 200 dispatchers have worked to resolve vital workplace issues that impact both public and emergency personnel safety. They have been bargaining with E-Comm for more than eight months. The effected E-Comm workers filed claims with the Workers Compensation Board.


Meena Cheema, Chairperson (604) 722-4611
John Strohmaier, President, CUPE Local 873 (604) 728-2741
Robin Jones, National Representative, CUPE (604) 603-4166

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