TORONTO, May 29, 2014 /CNW/ - Paramedics, as emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, bring tremendous dedication, skill and commitment to their jobs as first responders, Unifor says, and during Paramedic Services Week is calling for strong legislation to help them cope with an often traumatic job.
"We rely on paramedics in times of great need," said Jerry Dias, National President of Unifor, which represents hundreds of air and land paramedics across Ontario.
"They are there for us, so we must be there for them.
Dias noted that as first responders, paramedics are on the front lines of emergency health response, and are often witnesses to horrific and traumatic circumstances.
Dias called on all political parties in the current Ontario election commit to swift passage of Bill 67, a private member's bill to amend the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act regarding Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for paramedics.
The bill, sponsored by Parkdale-High Park NDP MPP Cheri DiNovo, passed second reading February 27 with all-party support, but died when the June 12 election was called.
Bill 67 proposed that if first responders such as police, fire fighters and paramedics suffer PTSD, the disorder would be presumed to be an occupational disease that occurred due to the employment as an emergency response worker, unless the contrary was shown to be the case.
Unifor also calls on all parties to support consistent and equitable early access to retirement pension benefits for paramedics as is now provided to other emergency first responders such as police officers and fire fighters.
"Paramedics are as deserving as other first responders and public safety personnel as they are also often called to the same horrific scenes," Dias said.
The cumulative impact of decades of emergency first response service and repeated experience of horrific and traumatic situations has led to few paramedics being able to endure the physical or emotional demands of paramedicine until age 65.
Unifor stands in unity and respect on Paramedic Services Week with all paramedics and remains committed to ensuring fair and equitable terms and conditions of employment in recognition of their tremendous dedication, skill and commitment to the well-being of Canadians.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing more than 305,000 workers, including almost 30,000 in health and social services. It was formed Labour Day weekend 2013 when the Canadian Auto Workers and the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers union merged.
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