Dec 08, 2009

Ambulance Service strikes out

VANCOUVER - Despite repeated union warnings that staffing levels are critically low, the BC Ambulance Service has tried to blame its employees for ambulance shortages.

The employer applied late Friday night to the B.C. Labour Relations Board claiming that CUPE 873 and some of its members were engaged in an “illegal strike”. An emergency hearing was held by the LRB Saturday afternoon, but after several hours of testimony the BCAS withdrew its claim against CUPE 873 and the hearing was adjourned until Monday.

The BCAS reportedly asserted that the union breached provisions of the Ambulance Services Collective Agreement Act because a number of paramedics had booked off sick. That Act was rammed through the B.C. Legislature last week by the Liberal government to force an end to the legal strike by ambulance paramedics before the 2010 Games.

During the seven-month-long strike, B.C.’s 3,500 ambulance paramedics were forced to work massive amounts of overtime under LRB Essential Services orders, masking chronic staffing shortages.

The BCAS advised people on the weekend, especially in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, to refrain from calling an ambulance except in extreme circumstances.

COPE 491