Paramedics question councillors' pay hike while EMS staff among lowest paid in Ontario

    BROCKVILLE, ON, Nov. 22 /CNW Telbec/ - Leeds Grenville EMS Paramedics,
members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), were present to
witness Thursday morning's United Counties Council meeting, where councillors
approved changes to their own compensation package that could see their pay
increase, while the counties push for a strike or lockout with paramedics to
try and keep EMS wages among the lowest in the province.
    "Despite the fact the province has increased its share of funding for EMS
wage costs, the counties are trying to negotiate a wage for paramedics that
would make our members among the lowest paid in the province," said Dave Hone,
president of CUPE Local 4440. "Councillors have no trouble addressing their
own pay package, yet they seem willing to jeopardize public health and safety
by pushing for a strike or lockout in emergency services."
    The Paramedics have been bargaining since December 15, 2006 for a renewal
of their collective agreement that expired December 31, 2006, but talks have
reached an impasse. The two sides are also required by law to negotiate an
essential ambulance services agreement that would govern the level of
ambulance services in the event of a strike or lockout, an outcome that CUPE
hopes to avoid.
    "We say that all ambulance services should be maintained to protect the
public interest and that bargaining impasses should be resolved at arbitration
without resorting to a strike or lockout," said John Lepine, a CUPE national
representative involved in negotiations for the local. "Unfortunately the
counties have vigorously rejected that approach, insisting instead on
resolving the dispute by lockout or strike."
    The next steps may involve an application before the Ontario Labour
Relations Board asking that it impose an essential services agreement if the
parties cannot agree. At the same time either the Counties or CUPE could set
the wheels in motion to set a legal lockout or strike deadline, although CUPE
insists that arbitration is a more sensible solution in the circumstances.
    "All we want is a wage level that is near the average in the Province -
it certainly is a reasonable position," said Hone.

For further information:

For further information: John Lepine, CUPE national representative,
(613) 542-2069; James Chai, CUPE communications, (416) 292-3999

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