Independent media needs you. Join the Tyee.

The Hook: Political news, freshly caught

Paramedics' union faces contempt charges over staffing levels

The union representing the province’s paramedics appeared in court today to face charges in relation to their labour dispute with the B.C. Ambulance Service.

“The employer has filed contempt charges against the union for the supposed allegation of not following the Essential Services Order,” said BJ Chute, director of public education for CUPE 873.

The order requires paramedics maintain a basic level of ambulance service throughout the labour dispute, including a requirement forcing them to work overtime. The contempt charges specifically refer to insufficient staffing levels for Vancouver’s Celebration of Light fireworks festival.

According to the employer, the union issued a directive last week telling members not to work at public events, such as the festival.

A July 24 ruling by the Labour Relations Board ordered the event was essential and required the union to help staff the event. But the employer said this never occurred, which lead it to file the charges.

“BCAS has made an application to the BC Supreme Court because it is extremely concerned for public safety given the union’s contempt for the employers’ direction and the Labour Relations Boards Essential Services Order,” said a written statement provided to The Tyee from Lee Doney, CEO of the Emergency and Health Services Commission, which oversees the ambulance service.

But union officials said the understaffing is because of broader staffing issues at the ambulance service and paramedics shouldn’t be forced to work overtime.

They also said they have advised paramedics to follow the strike regulations laid out by the Labour Relations Board.

“We’ve been very clear with our membership from the outset of this strike that they are to obey the Essential Services Order,” said Chute.

The order has been a high point of contention in the dispute, with the union arguing it is has taken away their ability to carry out an effective strike and has lead to a stalemate.

“There is no incentive for the employer to come to the bargaining table given the tight Essential Services Order that’s in place,” said Chute.

After the last set of mediated talks broke down over a month ago, the union has repeatedly called for the appointment of an independent arbitrator to settle the dispute.

“If you’re going to take away somebody’s right to strike, there has to be an alternative, such as an independent arbitrator,” said Chute.

The employer has rejected this option and Health Services Minister Kevin Falcon has refused a union request to intervene.

This Saturday will mark the beginning of the fifth month of the labour dispute.

Garrett Zehr reports for The Tyee.

What have we missed? What do you think? We want to know. Comment below. Keep in mind:


  • Verify facts, debunk rumours
  • Add context and background
  • Spot typos and logical fallacies
  • Highlight reporting blind spots
  • Ignore trolls
  • Treat all with respect and curiosity
  • Connect with each other

Do not:

  • Use sexist, classist, racist or homophobic language
  • Libel or defame
  • Bully or troll
  • Troll patrol. Instead, flag suspect activity.
comments powered by Disqus