Private operator Steve Woodburn says Peace River ambulance service is essential but he's willing to shut it down as a bargaining tactic against employees seeking a first contract.
Peace River (19 March 2010) - The Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA/NUPGE) says residents of this northern community could be deprived of air ambulance service to Edmonton because of a lockout application by Advanced Paramedic Ltd. (APL).
Located at the Peace River Airport, APL employs nine paramedics and emergency medical technicians, who provide emergency services on two air ambulance aircraft covering Peace River and surrounding northern communities.
The employees voted to join HSAA in August 2009 and have been attempting ever since to reach a fair first contract settlement.
"This employer (APL owner Stephen Woodburn) has maintained throughout the negotiating process that his air ambulance personnel shouldn't be allowed to strike as he considers them to be an essential service," says HSAA president Elisabeth Ballermann.
"Yet suddenly it's convenient to lock them out?" she asks."It's hypocrisy, plain and simple!"
HSAA is seeking a summary dismissal of APL's lockout notice from the Alberta Labour Relations Board (ALRB).
The two sides are far apart on several critical issues, the most important of which is scheduling. Currently, APL employees are bound to a schedule that requires them to be ready to work six days straight, 24 hours a day.
Ballermann says this "compromises the health and safety" of both patients and health care workers.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) contracted out the Peace River air ambulance service to APL, a private operator, in February 2003.
HSAA represents more than 1,200 EMS personnel across the province, including air ambulance service members.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE