Health Minister Adrian Dix announced today that the Province is initiating the process to create a standalone bargaining unit for the Ambulance Paramedics of British Columbia (CUPE Local 873) ― the union representing the more than 3,600 paramedics and dispatchers in British Columbia.
A standalone bargaining unit would provide members of CUPE Local 873 the opportunity to integrate emergency health services provided by paramedics and dispatchers further into the health-care system. By helping to ensure a strong voice for paramedics, this change would also support patient care, with a focus on key areas such as response times, rural and remote staffing, and innovative ways of treating patients with non-emergency injuries and illnesses.
“We listened on how we could support paramedics and dispatchers in bringing forward ideas as we work to achieve our common goals of faster response times and improved patient care,” said Dix. “Recommending a standalone bargaining unit for these critical front-line members of the health-care system is a key step toward improving services together.”
In support of the integration of ambulance services with the health-care system in 2010, CUPE Local 873 was transferred into the Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA), which is composed of 11 unions and led by the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), representing more than 85% of the workers in the association.
“We believe the creation of a standalone bargaining unit for B.C.’s paramedics and dispatchers is in the public interest, creating a venue to work collaboratively with government on important issues, such as ambulance response times, paramedic resources, the opioid crisis and patient care,” said CUPE Local 873 president Bronwyn Barter. “We value our relationship with our colleagues in the FBA, and thank them for their support and collaboration over the last seven years. This move is an acknowledgement by the government that our paramedics and dispatchers have a unique role in providing a vital service to patients and the public.”
The FBA supports the recommendation to move CUPE Local 873 to a standalone unit to better reflect the distinct nature of their work. As a standalone bargaining unit, paramedics and dispatchers would remain under the responsibility of the Provincial Health Services Authority under a separate collective agreement to further the collaborative relationship with the employer.
“Paramedics and dispatchers are critical members of the health-care team, and the FBA unions have been pleased to support them at the bargaining table as B.C.’s ambulance service was transitioned from the health ministry to the Provincial Health Services Authority,” says HEU secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside, spokesperson for the FBA. “But the work of CUPE Local 873 members is fundamentally different from facility-based health-care workers, so this move is both appropriate and welcome.”
Over the next three years, Ministry of Health staff will implement strategies focused on improving response times through additional ambulances, paramedics and dispatchers; enhancing rural and remote ambulance service; and access to primary care through community paramedicine programs.