Negotiations ended yesterday following two weeks of straight bargaining, with mediator Vince Ready agreeing to come in over the last two days. Despite our efforts, we have only achieved minimal progress on smaller non-monetary issues. There has been little to no progress on our member’s key priorities such as wage disparity between our partners in public safety and health, our precarious on-call pay scheme, service delivery challenges, recruitment and retention, and employee wellness.
Late Friday, with Mr. Ready’s assistance, the parties were able to come together on concepts and the employer’s bargaining agent showed signs of moving from positional bargaining to collaborative. As a result, they agreed to come back after the weekend with counter proposals addressing our common areas and a structure to address key wage issues. The employer’s bargaining team led by William Skinner from HEABC will be working over the weekend to come back first thing next week with these proposals. This is our first encouraging progress after 26 days at the bargaining table.
It is very evident that to get a deal done the government, PHSA, HEABC, and BCEHS will need to put funding in place to ensure paramedics and dispatchers are acknowledged and respected for the responsibilities and work we do. Our wages need to be competitive and comparable with the firefighters, police, and health professionals that we work side by side with.
Your negotiations committee and executive have been very clear, every day that this drags out and we do not have a tentative agreement, it impacts the ability of our patients to get ambulance and paramedic services in their time of need. This is unacceptable.
With the guidance of Mr. Ready, the parties will be reconvening on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday to address the work done over the weekend. We have been clear that if we are not able to move forward with adequate funding to address the issues of the ambulance service and our members, we will be consulting our membership at large, negotiations committee, and Executive Board looking at all our labour options. Our next step will revolve around putting legal pressure on this government and employer to get a collective agreement in place, including seeking a strike mandate.
Our message to the government is clear, “If not now- when? With the budget surplus and the opportunity to fix the ambulance service- now is the time.”
Regarding the temporary measures, we have been clear these were put in place to allow time to have meaningful discussions and progress on key issues in bargaining. As this has not happened, we have advised the employer that we are not prepared to extend them at this time.
If the BCEHS wishes to continue the measures, they can come to the table and address our concerns. They are not showing a willingness to do this and to put those measures in place permanently in the collective agreement.
On behalf of your APBC Negotiations Committee and
The Provincial Executive Committee.