The province’s 3,600 paramedics and emergency dispatchers are in the midst of a strike vote they hope will give them independence within the health community.
The online vote comes after eight months of bargaining failed to reach a resolution, Bronwyn Barter, president of the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C., said Tuesday. Members have until 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 1 to complete the online vote.
In 2009, the union was locked into the 45,000-member Facilities Bargaining Association representing other hospital and health-related unions.
Paramedics and dispatchers don’t consider themselves more important than other health professionals, she said. But shift patterns that require staff to provide 24-7 emergency care do call for a unique contract.
“We’re not attached to a facility either,” she said, adding the union’s collective agreement hasn’t changed since 2001. “It’s time for a change.”
Paramedics are considered an essential service. If there is a strike, Barter said the public won’t notice a decline in service, but tasks like training and paperwork could be set aside.
Michael Marchbank, president and CEO of the Health Employers Association of B.C., which manages labour relations for publicly funded health care employees, said strike votes are a part of the bargaining process. He’s confident a contract can be reached.
There are 150 paramedics and dispatchers at work in Kamloops and the surrounding region.