Weve been going through this problem for years, says Jakki Kennedy, a paramedic whos co-vice-president of the local. Weve finally gotten to the point of having enough strong women to fight this.
Kennedy says the problem first came to light back in 1993 when a paramedic came forward to complain there were no washrooms for women who were deployed to five of Edmontons fire halls to wait for emergency calls. Managements response was to convert a tiny janitors closet at one of the fire halls into a womens washroom.
Kennedy decided to take up the issue again after she became vice-president last spring and the number of women paramedics in the local had increased.
It was seven years later and we still had one bathroom thats designated female and its a closet, she says.
The local told their employer to come up with a solution or they were going public. Kennedy says one of their ideas was to take a port-a-pottie, put it up outside the station with a female sign and call the media.
In response, the city pulled the workers out of two of the fire halls and left it up to the remaining two fire stations without a womens washroom to designate an existing one for female use. At one of the stations, the washroom designated female had been the fire captains private washroom a symbol of status among the firefighters.
Now Kennedy says the female paramedics are often being intimidated and harassed by the male firefighters. We have some women who are afraid to go to work.
And there are incidents reported of washrooms being deliberately dirtied and supplies taken.
Theyve yelled at some of the women: Go clean your f. washroom!, she says. I have enough stress at work, enough responsibility in my job, (without having) to listen to someones verbal diatribe about what they think Im not doing.
Kennedy says the local plans to fight the issue at every level until the women have an acceptable solution.
One of our women was told at a station not too long ago that they dont like females in their fire station, she says. Well, its a city building and the city chose to dispatch us into these stations.
Hardly surprising there are so few female firefighters in this country.