Seeking the same right as police and firemen to retire at age 60
Toronto (27 May 2008) - Paramedics across Ontario have stepped up their campaign for equal pension rights with police and firefighters.
Unlike police and firemen, paramedics must wait until age 65 to retire with full pension. Members of the other two public safety professions are eligible at age 60.
Paramedic employees represented by four unions picketed the annual meeting of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) last week in Toronto as part of their campaign, which has been escalating in recent months.
The unions include the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Earlier in the year the groups wrote to the board asking for the change to be made. The protest was organized when no satisfactory response was received. Three steps are needed to bring about the change.
The first step was taken in 2005 when Ottawa formally designated paramedics as a "public safety occupation" equal to police and firefighters, thus recognizing that they also provide a public service – often under hazardous, high stress conditions.
The unions say the two remaining two steps now need to be taken to put the change into effect.
First, the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) must direct OMERS to make the change and OMERS must agree to cooperate. Second, the AMO must then give unions representing paramedics the right to negotiate the change in future collective agreements.
"Workers in designated public safety occupations have difficult, demanding jobs," the unions argue.
"When a citizen in our community has to call 911, paramedics, firefighters and police are ready to respond. Deservedly, police and firefighters in Ontario have a normal retirement age of 60. But paramedics do not. Paramedics are the only employees of the three designated public safety occupations who have to wait until age 65 to retire with full pension."
The issue affects approximately 5,000 paramedic across Ontario. NUPGE
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OPSEU: Health Care - Ambulance Division