Paramedic strike may be over, but anger persists
The seven-month B.C. ambulance paramedic strike may be over, but the anger persists.
Paramedics are furious the provincial government has imposed a contract on them.
After an all-night session of the legislature, the province passed Bill 21 early Saturday morning ordering 3,500 paramedics back to work.
B.C. Health Minister Kevin Falcon had introduced the legislation on Monday. He said the strike had dragged on too long and was putting people's health at risk with the approach of winter and in the face of the H1N1 pandemic.
NDP MLAs opposed the legislation.
"Ramming through a new contract sends the signal to all British Columbians that the government isn't interested in working through challenges, and it will undermine the upcoming negotiations with paramedics and with other public sector workers," NDP leader Carole James said in a statement Saturday.
The one-year contract gives the paramedics a three-per-cent wage hike retroactive to April, but does not address staffing, training or equipment issues, said paramedics spokesman B.J. Chute.
"It does nothing to fix the broken ambulance service. Nor does it do anything to heal the labour dispute that is going on within this province and paramedics," Chute said.
CUPE BC president Barry O'Neill called the government's back-to-work order "the most gutless thing I have ever seen in the legislature."
Throughout the dispute, paramedics had been operating under essential-service orders.
Once the law passed Saturday, the Liberal MLAs scattered and weren't available for comment.
With files from CTV British Columbia's Jim Beatty