In the 1960s and 1970s, British Columbia was covered by private and public ambulance services, including funeral homes, volunteer organizations and community groups. There was no unity or standardization between these entities, which resulted in poor working conditions, disorganized patient care and low pay. Many communities throughout BC had inconsistent or non-existent ambulance coverage, and paramedicine consisted mainly of rapidly transporting patients to the hospital.
In 1963, the first unofficial Union Executive consisted of Ben Pietz, President; John Redekop, Vice-President; Charley Redhead, Recording Secretary and 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 their search for a certified national Union, the National Union of Public Employees was approached. The first members of the Union were from communities servicing Vancouver, Burnaby and New Westminster and later spread to Richmond, Delta and Surrey. After joining the National Union of Public Employees, the newly formed paramedic union obtained their own local charter-Local 873, in March of 1963. The National Union of Public Employees later joined with The National Union of Public Service Employees, and CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) was created, which officially made our union members of CUPE (Local 873).
In 1974, the BC Provincial Government formed the British Columbia Ambulance Service (BCAS), and it was the members of CUPE Local 873 who were to provide all pre-hospital care for the Province of BC. Today, we have over 4,400 union members servicing almost 1 million square kilometres of land and over 5 million citizens.