Prior to 1974, ambulance service for the Province of British Columbia was provided by a mix of private and public organizations, including funeral homes and community groups. There was no unity or standardization between these organizations, which resulted in poor working conditions with low pay. The first meeting in the search for a Union occurred at the old emergency ward at Vancouver General Hospital. The meeting was between Ben Pietz and Charley Redhead and it dealt with ways to improve the working conditions of ambulance attendants. Metropolitan Ambulance attendants worked 24 hours on and 24 hours off and every 4th week, they'd work one extra day. For working 86 1/2 hours a week, they were paid $90.00. Associated Ambulance attendants worked 114 hours a week.
In their search for a Union, the National Union of Public Employees was approached and this was the Union that we were to join. With the help of Bill Black from Local 180, the Hospital Employees Union, the members were signed up. The first members of the Union were from Metropolitan Ambulance which serviced Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster. It soon spread to Associated Ambulance in Burnaby and then Richmond, Delta and Surrey Ambulance.
After joining the National Union of Public Employees we obtained our own Local. Local 873 obtained it's Charter in March of 1963. After the first contract, the hours were decreased to 56 hours a week and there was a raise in pay of $10.00 per week.
The National Union of Public Employees joined with The National Union of Public Service Employees, and CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) was created. The first Executive consisted of Brother Ben Pietz, President; Brother John Redekop, Vice-President; Brother Charley Redhead, Recording Secretary; Brother Fred Wescott, Secretary-Treasurer. At this time, the Union consisted of approximately two dozen members and the seniority list was printed on the last page of the contract.
In 1974, the NDP Government formed the B.C. Ambulance Service and it was the members of CUPE Local 873 who were to provide all pre-hospital care for the Province of British Columbia. Today, we have over 4,400 members and it's Brother Ben Pietz and Brother Charley Redhead we can thank for the beginnings of a world-class service.