Additional Articles Medical Model Needed | Co-ordinated bargaining | Transfer services: it’s our work | Short Takes | Thames Emergency Medical Services wage arbitration award | Ambulance Division Executive
May 17, 2001
Downloading and bargaining rights
Ottawa – We won
OPSEU won a certification vote ordered by the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). With a 97 per cent voter turnout, the vote was 98 per cent in favour of OPSEU. OPSEU will be arguing for a stand-alone unit at upcoming OLRB hearings. CUPE says the paramedics fall into their all-employee unit at the City.
Renfrew County – temporary deal
OPSEU negotiated a temporary deal with the Pembroke General Hospital and CUPE in order to ensure that the CUPE contract would not prevent the hiring of OPSEU paramedics by the Hospital. OPSEU is seeking a stand-alone paramedic unit and the right for paramedics to vote on which union will represent them.
Simcoe County – hearing held
A new company, Health Trust 2000, won the contract to serve the County as of Jan. 1, 2001. The OLRB held a hearing on OPSEU’s successor rights application on March 28.
Victoria and Northumberland counties – raiding charges
OPSEU initiated raiding charges against CUPE through the Canadian Labour Congress after CUPE filed certification applications for our members in Victoria County (Lindsay and District Ambulance) and Northumberland County (Lakeshore Ambulance). CUPE claimed that our members were without a union and a contract after the owner of the two services changed the structure of its holding companies.
In a letter to OPSEU members in Victoria County, staff representative Terry Baxter advised:
"If any of you are wondering whether CUPE has been making promises to you in an effort to ‘woo’ you, attached to this letter you will find the salary scale from the CUPE collective agreement covering the Haliburton County Ambulance. We understand that CUPE has been advertising on the basis of the York and Durham rates of $23.40 effective Jan. 1, 2000. Please note the rates of pay most recently negotiated covering their Haliburton members for this year effective Jan. 1, 2001. Haliburton rates are $3.00 less…."
"Schedule ‘A’ (Collective Agreement between the Corporation of the County of Haliburton and the Canadian Union of Public Employees: Expires December 31, 2001.)
"Jan. 1, 2000 Jan. 1, 2001
OPSEU has filed notice to bargain for the two services, bargaining teams have been elected and demand setting meetings have been held. The bargaining teams have been directed by the members to achieve significant wage increases and other improvements.
Grey County – opposition to firemedics
In Grey County the City of Owen Sound’s fire department has been put in charge of ambulance services.
OPSEU has negotiated a temporary deal with the City and the Firefighters Association to ensure that paramedics will continue to be represented by OPSEU until the OLRB decides whether the paramedics fall into the Firefighters’ bargaining unit.
At hearings in May the Employer will argue that the paramedics are firefighters for purposes of the Fire Protection and Prevention Act and claim there should be a single, integrated service.
OPSEU will argue that paramedics are not firefighters and that firefighters are not paramedics. We will say emergency medical services should be operated separately and maintained on a medical model.
The Employer bases its argument on cost efficiency. OPSEU says there is no evidence that fire departments run emergency medical services more cost effectively.
OPSEU has also raised concerns about the quality and standards of care for patients. There are enormous costs to cross-train firefighters to be paramedics and vice-versa. There are stringent requirements in the Ambulance Act. There are also job security, seniority and career satisfaction concerns.
Haliburton County – CUPE gains
The OLRB awarded CUPE our members. The County took over the service Nov. 1, 2000. Prior to the divestment, CUPE and the County opened up their collective agreement to include the OPSEU paramedics, who actually outnumber the other county employees, and negotiated terms and conditions of employment for the paramedics. There was no input from or ratification by the paramedics.
The County has named the Almonte General Hospital as the ambulance service provider. With this, in addition to the paramedics in the OPSEU-represented service unit, it also became the employer for OPSEU paramedics employed by the OPS Smiths Falls service and by the Carleton Place/Richmond service, and for CUPE paramedics from the Perth and Smiths Falls District Hospital. OPSEU asked for successor rights and argued for a stand-alone paramedics bargaining unit. The OLRB ruled against a stand-alone unit. It also ordered a vote. OPSEU has asked the board to reconsider because that ruling departs from traditional board practice. Historically the OLRB has required a union to have 20 to 25 per cent of the bargaining unit before it appears on a ballot, and CUPE has substantially less than that.
OPSEU lost the vote to CUPE.
The Grey County situation shows the fundamental problem facing Upper Tier Municipalities. They have been handed the responsibility to deliver ambulance services, but how do they do it to best meet emergency health needs? For paramedics, how do we ensure that decisions about our services are driven by medical priorities, rather than cost alone?
In the last issue of Lights and Sirens, your executive talked about coordinated bargaining as a way of maintaining our strength. A major issue in this round is wages. Paramedics need to redress the stranglehold that the provincial government had on us over the last years.
We recommended that we continue to seek wages that equal or surpass provincial firefighter averages. For a P1, this would mean a target of at least $24.27 an hour effective April 1, 2001, based on a rough average of rates currently being paid to firefighters. (This is a conservative estimate, because about two-thirds of municipalities are paying expired rates.) For P2s, we recommend increasing the differential to pay at least $26.97 an hour. This is based on the differential on rates in York, effective April 1, 2001.
We all know that pay isn’t the only issue. Your executive is working with our head office resources and staff representatives to improve and expand the former central language. The executive will be endorsing goals and principles, and language is being drafted to reflect those principles. For example, the job security language will provide greater protection in contracting out or RFP situations. It will also provide greater recognition for seniority rights. We are also looking at protections related to decertification and deactivation of ALS skills. Improvements are also being detailed in shift premium, vacation, pregnancy and parental leave, and part-time employees’ progression on the wage grid and percentage in lieu of benefits. Your executive urges you to consider the goals and principles and the draft language as part of your demand setting process.
This round of bargaining is critical. Support your bargaining team!
Some employers are seeking transfer car language in our collective agreements in this round of bargaining. Your executive recommends that we do not go down this road. Getting rid of this language was one of the wins from our last round of central bargaining. We got rid of it because it downgrades us and the work we do.
Let’s be clear about this. Transporting patients is our work. If the employer wants us available to do what needs to be done if a person being transferred goes into cardiac arrest or has some other emergency, then they should be paying us paramedic rates for that.
Further on this, we feel it’s time the Ambulance Act was policed. Let us know what you are seeing with transfer agencies transporting patients in your area.
What do you think?
Many services have the right to strike in this round of bargaining, Should there be a strike or lockout at any service, remember:
We can’t win without solidarity.
Arbitrator Janice Johnson issued the award for TEMS in February.
Over the 3.5 year term (April 23, 2000 to Sept. 30, 2003) she awarded increases (top rates) as shown in the chart above.
Together with negotiated pension and benefit improvements TEMS paramedics are getting a more than 20 per cent increase in compensation in the first year alone.
The arbitrator gave extensive reasons for her decision, and noted the importance of the industry being in transition and this being the first instance of an award in the post downloading period. Her reasons were as follows:
Thames Emergency Medical Service arbitration award
April 23 Aug 16 April 1 April 1 April 1
2000 2000 2001 2002 2003
$20.52 (5%) $21.75 (6%) $22.40 (3%) $22.85 (2%) $23.08 (1%)
$21.82 (5%) $23.35 (7%) $24.05 (3%) $24.53 (2%) $24.78 (1%)
Daniel Tyo, Chair
Jamie Ramage, Vice-Chair
Darryl Taylor, Secretary-Treasurer
Dennis McKaig, Region 1
Mario Posteraro, Region 2
Carl Eichenberger, Region 3
Randy Caverly, Region 4
Michael McGaughey, Region 6
Joan Clarke, Region 7
Ontario Public Service Employees
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