B.C. paramedics and dispatchers reach labour deal with province

B.C. paramedics and dispatchers have voted 96.1 per cent in favour of a new, three-year collective agreement with the province, according to the union.

A deal between the Ambulance Paramedics and Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. and the Health Employers Association of B.C. was reached on Jan. 6.

The union didn’t disclose specific details Wednesday but said the agreement has addressed foundational changes to wages, benefits and staffing models.

The B.C. government, however, said the deal includes a three-year term, and wage increases of 3.24 per cent in the first year, 5.5 per cent in the second, plus a potential cost-of-living adjustment up to 6.75 per cent, and two per cent in the third year, plus a cost of living boost up to three per cent.

The agreement also includes plans to improve on-call coverage and response times in rural and remote communities, as well as provisions on Indigenous-specific anti racism initiatives, including paid leave to support Indigenous employees in connecting with cultural and spiritual beliefs, according to the government.

In addition, the parties agreed to diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, including a provincial working group and the removal of gender-normative uniform rules.

“We’re happy that many of our core concerns are being addressed and that our members trusted our executive board and negotiations committee to bring them a fair deal,” said union president Troy Clifford in a statement. “The fact that we needed to invest in paramedic services, pre-hospital care, and public safety was obvious. We’re glad that we could sit at the table together and put our members and patients first.”

Clifford said the union has been sounding the alarm about a continuing staffing crisis for years while being on the front lines of COVID-19, the toxic drug crisis, and seeing many ambulances sit empty in every area of the province.

He added that while the deal was fair, there are still pressing issues that need to be addressed, such as ensuring there is a fully functional ambulance service in every B.C. community.

The union represents nearly 5,000 ambulance paramedics, emergency dispatchers and call-takers across B.C. They have been without a contract since April 2022.

Burnout from COVID and the opioid crisis combined with low wages, stress and staffing shortages have taken a toll on the province’s first-responders.