New legislation to impose paramedic contracts
British Columbia is moving to impose a new contract on ambulance paramedics who have been on strike since April.
Health Minister Kevin Falcon introduced legislation Monday to end the strike, saying the public's health is at risk.
"We are concerned that the longer this dispute drags on the higher the risk for patients, a risk that we are no longer prepared for countenance."
"With the H1N1 pandemic impacting the acute-care system and with the busy holiday season fast approaching, the public needs certainty that they'll have the care they need in an emergency."
But John Strohmaier, head of CUPE Local 873, which represents paramedics and dispatchers, said he's outraged by the legislation.
Falcon said the legislation will provide a three-per-cent wage increase, adding that's generous considering the state of the province's finances and consistent with other public-sector settlements.
"It is not a decision we have come to lightly," he said of the imposed legislation.
The government will also appoint an industrial inquiry commissioner to try to smooth the way for the next round of contract talks, he said.
"The union indicated the appointment of an industrial inquiry commissioner was the most important issue to address and I agree," Falcon told the legislature.
Strohmaier said union members will be "very upset" about the legislation.
"It's just another example of how the government has refused to negotiate throughout this labour dispute," he said.
"We're in the process of voting on the last offer and they're presuming to know what the outcome of that is and legislating us before we even have an opportunity to count the ballots."
Strohmaier said the upcoming Olympic Games have likely factored into the government's decision to introduce the legislation.
"Obviously they don't want anybody on strike while they're hosting their big party but I'm not sure that this is going to work out for them."
Striking paramedics have remained on the job under essential service legislation.
CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill said the legislation marks "a shocking new low by this government."