B.C. paramedics, employer reach new contract deal

B.C. paramedics, employer reach new contract deal

After months of negotiations, the Ambulance Paramedics of BC (APBC) and the Health Employers’ Association reached a tentative collective agreement late Friday night.

The union that represents paramedics and emergency dispatchers has been at the bargaining table with the government and employer since their previous agreement expired on April 1, 2022.

Troy Clifford, provincial president of APBC, said the most important issues that needed to be addressed were staff retention, recruitment and service delivery alongside pay and incentives for those entering the profession.

Staffing and recruitment have been major setbacks for the paramedics union in the past 50 years, according to Clifford.

“We’ve worked tirelessly with the government and the employer to address our members’ and services most important issues and bring significant improvements to the ambulance service,” said Clifford, adding these have been “long-standing, systemic issues” in the industry.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity to get it out in the next couple of weeks to our members and then start the voting process.”

Clifford told the Richmond News that more than 30 per cent of ambulances have been seen sitting empty on a regular basis despite the ongoing toxic drug crisis and “serious under-staffed” situations in the past few years, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This is a result of the paramedic service being chronically short-staffed.

“We really have not been competitive in our wages and benefits in recruitment,” he said.

“Our members and service have been undervalued for years, making it impossible to keep up with recruitment and retention of highly trained paramedics and dispatchers.”

Understaffing, Clifford said, has affected their ability to “respond to people in their time of need” with service deteriorating as a result.

“This collective agreement will see a renewed commitment to the ambulance service, to our members, and ultimately, to our patients.

“We take this acknowledgement as proof that what our members do every day matters, and that we are valued for the service we provide.”

Details of the new agreement are not being released at this time as a voting process will proceed in the coming weeks for the union.