B.C. paramedics have reached a breaking point, union says

B.C. paramedics have reached a breaking point, union says

VANCOUVER — The Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia Union says it’s reached a breaking point with its employer.

The union says B.C. Emergency Health Services has cancelled job sharing amid what the union has called a major staff shortage.

“This arbitrary decision by the employer, giving them 30 days notice of cancellation was not done with any compassion or understanding of the needs of them. And it’s sadly being done for administrative and cost savings,” said Troy Clifford, president of the union.

Three dozen employees were impacted, the majority of them working mothers.

The union claims they are now scrambling for childcare in the middle of a pandemic.

“A job share is where two full-time paramedics share one position. They’re primarily done for childcare issues or work-life balance,” explained Clifford.

B.C. EHS says the change was triggered by amendments to the Employment Standards Act regarding the maximum hours and that it was required to terminate the agreements as of April 1.

“We know this situation is upsetting to our impacted employees and we apologize for the stress this uncertainty is causing,” said Sarah Morris, a BCEHS spokesperson in a statement to CTV News.

“Continuing job-sharing for those who rely on such arrangements is a high priority for us.”

EHS says it fully intends to offer the affected employees new agreements and that it expects job sharing can continue.

The union says the changes to the ESA happened in 2019 and it’s disappointed in how the situation was handled.

“The real reason behind this is their inability to process or administer these changes and that’s why they’re asking us members to take a demotion, which impacts their wages, their holidays and their status to go to a part time status from a full-time,” said Clifford.

“That impacts their pensions and some of these are single women. It’s really tough.”

Although the number of impacted staff is small, there are concerns they could choose to leave, worsening what union has described as a critical staff shortage.

“It’s just another thing that they’re going down a bad management decision. That impacts probably employee morale and perspective,” said Clifford.

Earlier this month the union expressed concern about longer wait times for ambulances due to staffing shortages.

“On Sunday night … we had 22 ambulances out of service in the Lower Mainland and GVRD area,” Clifford told CTV News.

He says that represents about 25 per cent of its resources.

EHS has said staffing levels are stable overall, with no major recruitment issues.

Health Minister Adrian Dix recently said ambulance response times had been reduced over the last three years.

Across B.C., paramedics respond to up to 17,000 calls a day, with most of those in the Lower Mainland.