SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, March 21, 2018 /CNW/ - Paramedics in Sault St. Marie, represented by Unifor Local 1359, continue to face an uphill battle as negotiations for a fair wage make little progress in ongoing talks.
"The new offer, like the one before it, severely undervalues the crucial part paramedics play in saving lives every day," said Laurie Lessard-Brown, Unifor Local 1359 President representing 54 paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie who have been without a contract since March 2017. "Councilors we talked to support the union's proposal and feel we deserve. But it is disappointing that it is not being acted upon by city officials."
An earlier proposal offered by the employer was a shockingly low 0.5% increase in wages for these paramedics said Unifor. Even though the workers do much of the same work, Sault Ste. Marie paramedics make significantly less than Ontario first responders.
This new, substandard offer comes in contrast to an increase in funding to the city's fire department, even with a decrease usage of fire services. The Council in Sault Ste. Marie unanimously approved the construction of a 34,000 square foot fire hall, estimated to be valued at $ 10 million. In addition to this, eight more firefighters will be hired, however there have been no funding changes allocated for EMS.
Unifor said it is unacceptable that there is extensive spending on fire services but none for EMS, when there is a greater need for EMS. Both EMS and fire departments are headed by the same administration and yet there are glaring discrepancies in terms of where the money is going and where it's needed most.
"Calls for paramedic services have gone up by 31% over the past year, while calls for fire services have actually decreased. Yet we see more of taxpayers' money going towards services that research shows are not as highly utilized" says Fred Bond, Unifor national representative.
The union has now asked councilors to account for their constituency's support for better employment conditions for paramedics. Unifor is also encouraging Sault Ste. Marie residents to contact their municipals leaders and demand fair negotiations for the essential work that paramedics do.
"We know the people of Sault Ste. Marie are behind this initiative, and support health care workers. These officials have been elected by the public and must be accountable. It's time to stop giving lip service" said Lessard-Brown.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
For further information: please contact Unifor Communications Representative Asma Farooq: [email protected] or (647) 327-9371 (cell)