Paramedics blame VANOC for strike bill

Posted by admin on Nov 6th, 2009

November 6, 2009, The Canadian Press

The union representing B.C. paramedics says Olympic organizers put pressure on the provincial government to legislate an end to the emergency responders’ strike. Hundreds of union members held a rally against the legislation Friday in front of the suburban office building housing the Games’ operations. On Thursday, union members disrupted a Winter Olympics security exercise.

The union accuses the government of bringing in back-to-work legislation at the behest of Games organizers and at a time when the workers were voting on a contract offer from the government.

“If they are allowed to get away with this, it will be used again and again,” Jim Sinclair, president of the B.C. Federation of Labour, said in a release.

“Instead of negotiating, employers will just sit back and wait until the government legislates.”

Members of the legislature held a rare Friday sitting and Government House Leader Mike de Jong warned that the government wants the bill passed before next week, even if that means members have to sit through the weekend.

The government says the strike has dragged on too long and is putting people’s health at risk with the approach of winter and the danger of the H1N1 virus.
Union points to VANOC email

But CUPE maintains the legislation was introduced after an email from the Vancouver Olympic organizing committee to the Health Ministry.

A statement from Olympic organizers Friday said its director of medical services sent a Sept. 14 memo to the government asking if the ambulance service would be available when the Vancouver Games begin in February, saying “we need to make decisions about contingency plans.”

“We have always maintained that paramedic support would be required to meet our medical services commitments at Games time,” said the Friday statement.

“While we are hopeful that B.C. Ambulance Service will be provided, we understandably must plan for contingency scenarios.”
Government accused of misleading public

In the legislature Friday during debate on the back-to-work bill, NDP health critic Adrian Dix accused the government of misleading the public about its motives.

“Officials of the B.C. Ambulance Service have been clear that this is about the Olympics, and the government has failed to talk about that,” Dix said.

“I think that when you’re bringing draconian legislation to affect a particular group in society, you have the obligation to be straightforward and honest.”

But Energy Minister Blair Lekstrom said both sides were clearly stuck.

“When seven months pass, and even longer, reality does set in that the possibility of getting to a negotiated settlement is waning,” he told the legislature. “We’ve reached that.”

He said both sides have worked hard. The union has put forward five proposed solutions, while the employer has tabled six.

“So there has been effort from both sides, but the reality is that effort has not led to a resolve.”

Lekstrom said the back-to-work legislation wasn’t an easy choice for anyone, saying paramedics saved his brother two months ago.

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