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November 4, 2009

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Minister admits VANOC pressure

VICTORIA - Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon now admits that demands from the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee (VANOC) to end the ambulance paramedics strike led to back-to-work legislation.

Falcon had repeatedly claimed in the B.C. Legislature and to the public that the Olympics were not a factor, until CUPE released information described in a September memo from VANOC to the BC Ambulance Service and other government officials demanding “definitive confirmation” that “all required ambulance services will be provided as planned” for the 2010 Games.

The VANOC edict goes on to threaten that "If we are unable to obtain that guarantee (through either settlement of the strike or legislated "detente" for the Games), then VANOC will be required to initiate alternative contingency plans to avoid cancellation of the Games."

While Falcon has had to admit the Olympics are “a factor” in ending the paramedics’ collective bargaining rights, he is still citing concerns over the H1N1 pandemic. This despite repeated calls from the members of CUPE 873 for action on pandemic for more than a year.

CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill said “the minister’s story has certainly changed since we released contents of the memo, but what hasn’t changed is this government’s unprecedented attack on collective bargaining.”

The move to legislate the paramedics “back to work” has come while they are in the middle of voting on the Liberal government’s latest offer. The 3,500 Ambulance Paramedics of BC have been on strike since April 1 for better response times, equipment, wages and staffing levels. They have continued to work throughout the dispute under essential services orders.

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