B.C. paramedics raise concerns over change to workloads

B.C. paramedics raise concerns over change to workloads

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – As paramedics across B.C. continue to deal with the overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, some may soon be at risk of losing full-time work.

Jessica Chilton with the Ambulance Paramedics of BC says employer BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) is eliminating job-share agreements on April 1 due to payroll issues.

“Usually, we work four days and then have four days off. One person would work two days, and another person would work the two days,” she explains.

“And the main reason people engage in that is for self-accommodation purposes. So, we have a lot of families, working mothers, that have engaged in job-share agreements to manage their family needs and their childcare needs,” Chilton says, adding the inability to access childcare is the most concerning issue that’s come up.

While many parents in the province have difficulties finding childcare, Chilton says it’s even harder for paramedics and dispatchers, who work unconventional hours that don’t align with regular daycare hours.

“It’s a hard … for anyone in British Columbia right now to find childcare within a month but then all these extra factors and it’s near impossible,” Chilton adds.

She says there are also members who use the job-share agreements to manage mental health and well-being. And since paramedics are already feeling overworked and exhausted, the changes would likely also take an additional toll on their mental health.

“The opioid crisis, the ongoing pandemic, has taken a large toll out of paramedics and left a large amount of paramedics with mental health injuries. And a job-share agreement was one way to help balance the work life and the personal life and take care of their mental health. So members are now being faced with a decision of choosing to manage their health, and welfare, and families, or potentially face a demotion and having to accept the changes that the employer is putting forward,” Chilton explains.

“Essentially, the resolution that’s been put forward so far would amount to a change in employment status, and that would affect the person’s ability to bid on future jobs that could have potential negative ramifications on their pension as well,” she adds.

Since hearing the news, Chilton says the union has been approached by members who have been “near tears” trying to figure out how they will manage the changes before April 1 and unsure of what their options will look like.

She adds the union is exploring all options to support members, including an appeal to the Labor Board and looking into the possibility of human rights violations for people who need family status accommodations.

“Essentially … the job-share agreements were accommodating these members and that accommodations been taken from them,” Chilton says.

While the union is looking at its various options, Chilton says it is hoping for a resolution before April 1.

BCEHS apologizes for stress, says it intends to continue job-sharing arrangements

In a statement, BCEHS says it is “committed to continuing to offer our employees job-sharing arrangements.”

It says a technical issue related to amendments to the Employment Standards Act meant the notice to terminate the current agreements was necessary.

“We fully intend to offer the 36 affected employees new agreements and are in conversation with the Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers Association (CUPE 873) to do everything possible to make this happen. We know this situation is upsetting to our impacted employees and we apologize for the stress this uncertainty is causing. Continuing job-sharing for those who rely on such arrangements is a high priority for us; our human resources department will dedicate the time necessary to support the process,” BCEHS said in its statement.

It added it expects job shares “can continue in a renewed agreement” and that it looks forward to working with the union on that.