Tentative agreement reached with BC paramedics and dispatchers

Tentative agreement reached with BC paramedics and dispatchers

Ambulance Paramedics of BC President Troy Clifford says the proposed settlement with the Health Employers Association of BC will see a renewed commitment to the ambulance service, paramedics, dispatchers and patients.

“This new agreement will help secure a significant foundation for improvement for paramedic services in B.C., and one that acknowledges the uniqueness of our service and challenges for our profession,” Clifford said.

While he could not disclose details of the agreement, he is feeling optimistic it will be ratified.

“I’m really positive that we’ve addressed that scheduled on-call model that was a failure in the last round of bargaining, or in the last collective agreement,” he said.

“Over the last couple of years it has not met the needs of those communities, so I’m very confident we have been able to negotiate out that transition from that previous model into a new model that will address those remote and rural service delivery challenges.”

Clifford says they’ve also been able to address a lot of issues around recruitment and retention that will make BC Emergency Health Services more competitive with other ambulance services and private employers.

The union president has high praise for mediator Vince Ready.

“I don’t believe, without his assistance, we would have been able to make the progress we did,” said Clifford.

He says it will take time to set up ratification votes for paramedics and dispatchers across the province. More details will be released in the coming weeks.

ORIGINAL 10:15 a.m.

The Health Employers Association of BC has reached a tentative new collective agreement with the Ambulance Paramedics and Ambulance Dispatchers Bargaining Association.

The deal was hammered out late Friday with the help of veteran mediator Vince Ready.

No details are being released publicly at this time.

“Out of respect for the ratification process, which requires both parties to take the tentative agreement back to their respective members to ensure broad-based support, the parties have committed to keeping the details of the tentative agreement confidential,” reads a joint statement.

There’s no word yet when ratification votes will be held. The joint statement also thanks the mediator.

“Both sides of the table have expressed their appreciation to Mr. Ready and for the respectful tone of these negotiations in being able to reach an agreement that supports patient care and addresses the priorities of both parties and the Ministry of Health.”

The union representing paramedics and dispatchers has been calling for a better deal for its members for several months.

In November, CUPE Local 873 launched a media and public awareness campaign called ‘Sounding The Alarm.” The union said more than 11,000 people had signed a petition demanding the BC government fix the province’s ailing ambulance service.

“It’s encouraging to see so many people around the province signing this petition,” said BC Ambulance Paramedics and Dispatchers President Troy Clifford. “Like us, people are very worried about how long it will take to get urgent medical help, or if an ambulance is even available in their community.

“In the midst of an unprecedented staffing crisis, ambulances are sitting empty across the province, and we are seeing the effects of understaffing and poor wages now more than ever,” he noted.

Last year, there were a number of cases of people in rural communities having to wait much longer than normal for emergency medical aid due to a combination of staffing shortages and ambulances being pulled from one area to cover another community, often several kilometres away.

Late last year, Clifford also fought to get three ambulances that were added to the Kelowna contingent during the pandemic restored after they were temporarily idled.