Paramedics' collective agreement in question

With a transfer of oversight from the Ministry of Health to the Provincial Health Services Authority, B.C. paramedics are wondering about the future of their collective agreement.

“It changes everything. This is still a subject of considerable litigation,” said John Strohmaier, president of Ambulance and Paramedics of B.C. CUPE 873.

The issue is before the Labour Relations Board and paramedics are still trying to determine what parts of their collective agreement will be transferred to the new governing body.

“Paramedics on the streets are feeling disrespected and demoralized,” said Strohmaier.

He added that none of the issues, such as retention of rural paramedics, that led to a strike two years ago have been addressed. Paramedics were legislated back to work in November of 2009 after a seven-month strike.

The change, which took effect Friday, was announced last year after the release of Chris Trumpy’s industrial inquiry report investigating service delivery models and consultation with stakeholder.

The Provincial Health Services Authority is one of six health authorities and oversees agencies such as the B.C. Children’s Hospital and B.C. Cancer Agency.

The Ministry of Health says the change is focused on re-aligning with the health authorities and expanded health-sector opportunities for paramedics in rural remote communities.

Depite the contract concerns, it’s business as usual for paramedics on the street.

“We’re not seeing much of a change,” said John Hosie, a Nanaimo paramedic and regional vice-president of the paramedics' union.

Hosie says he hopes for change under Premier Christy Clark, who showed support for paramedics before taking on her new role.

“I remain cautiously optimistic,” he said.

The paramedics collective agreement was extended to 2012 when legislation was imposed. Strohmaier said there was no bargaining or discussion about pay raises, adding it means paramedics will endure five years of no pay increases.

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