FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Paramedics in B.C. have started a petition to amend the current Fire and Police Services Bargaining Act.
The initiative that has been launched is hoping to include public sector paramedics in the interest arbitration process used to settle collective agreements for fire and police services without strikes or lockouts. This would be achieved by moving public sector paramedics from their current position in the Facilities Bargaining Association to a renamed Ambulance, Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act.
Local paramedic Christopher Eyre has been a paramedic for the last 6 years. He says the petition is to ensure they have similar rights to other first responders.
“Paramedics are associated with hospital staff. We were put there in 2010 by the B.C. Government. Right now, we’re not really considered an essential service and so we need to be lumped back into essential services.”
Eyre says there is a police and fire act out there that has bargaining rights and they (paramedics) just want to have the same rights that they do. He says there are many reasons why paramedics being included in the same category, would be beneficial.
“For one thing, it is good for the public. They are considered essential services so if there was ever any kind of job action, they can’t be locked out of work so it protects the public. So right now, where we are, we could be locked out of work with hospital staff.”
The initiative was started by a paramedic who started in Fort St. John that now works down south. The initiative has been very positive so far according to Eyre. He says he is unsure of the exact number of signatures that have been collected so far, but it has reached “thousands”.
The paramedics have been setting up typically at grocery stores and have been collecting around 500-600 signatures at each event they hold.
In the Peace Region there are around 10 canvassers. Eyre says they have teamed up with paramedics to get signatures. The first real kickoff for the Peace Region and Fort St. John will happen tonight at Safeway from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. They are hoping to book more events with the support of Save-On-Foods and other local businesses.
“We have to maximize our opportunity to gather signatures from the public and they do also have to be registered voters within the province of B.C. to sign the petition because all of the signatures get sent back to Elections B.C. to do a count.”
He also went on to explain that they have different shift patterns that occur in the province and went on to explain how Fort St. John works specifically.
“There are different shift structures throughout the province and in Fort St. John, one of the shift patterns is we make $2 an hour, on call until we get called out and then we make our wage for a certain amount of hours and then after those hours, we go back down to $2 an hour.”
He says that if you go to a larger urban setting, such as Vancouver, you make your regular wages but as you get into a smaller city and market, the call volume isn’t as high and that is when shift patterns come into play.
“A lot of paramedics have to have second jobs to afford to live. I work at the Airport so I can basically afford to live because you know, you can make a living at it and I’ve done it but you live at the ambulance station, you do back to back shifts, up to 36 hours on call sometimes.”
If you would like more information, you van visit Your Paramedics at: http://yourparamedics.ca/. The website also has a calendar with all upcoming events.