“A shocking new low by this government.” –First time a government has legislated a contract on workers while they were in the middle of voting on an offer.
Victoria (6 November 2009) – The BC government is legislating the province’s 3,500 striking ambulance paramedics “back to work” with Bill 21, the Ambulance Services Collective Agreement Act. The anti-union legislation introduced in the provincial legislature on Wednesday, is a first in Canadian labour history. It marks the first time a government has legislated a contract on workers while they were in the middle of voting on an offer from their employer.
The ambulance paramedics and dispatchers, members of Local 873 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have been on strike since April 1 of this year for better staffing levels, wages, and an independent industrial inquiry commission to address the critical condition of ambulance services.
The workers were voting on an offer from their employer, B C Ambulance Service, when the government stepped in and introduced the legislation which calls for a retroactive one-year deal with a three percent wage hike – less than was in the offer the workers were voting on. The results of the vote were suppose to be released today.
CUPE BC president Barry O’Neill said the move “marks a shocking new low by this government.” He added that “despite our repeated attempts to settle this dispute at the bargaining table, the government has shown its true colours by not even waiting until the end of this week for the democratic results of the membership vote on their latest offer."
“Paramedics have had their right to strike virtually eliminated via Essential Services orders. They've repeatedly asked for an independent arbitrator and the government has repeatedly refused. Now they have had their right to collective bargaining taken away", said O’Neill.
A rally in support of the striking workers and to protest against the back-to-work legislation will be held today outside the Olympic Organizing Committee headquarters in Vancouver.
The government intends the legislated contract be passed before the house adjourns for next week’s Remembrance Day events. NDP leader Carole James said her party will oppose the back-to-work legislation and vote against it.
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