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Paramedics reject industrial inquiry commission, demand 'true terms of reference'

Chris Trumpy will lead an industrial inquiry commission in the B.C. Ambulance Service and its dispute with paramedics, the government announced today. But the paramedics says they won't cooperate without better terms of reference.

A Ministry of Labour news release set out the current terms of reference:

In addition to an examination of the collective bargaining structure in the ambulance service, a number of items specifically requested by the union local representing paramedics and dispatchers have been incorporated in the commission's terms of reference.

These are: staff recruitment, training and retention; staff workload and occupational health and safety issues; and deployment strategies in comparison with other Canadian ambulance service delivery models.

The commission will also investigate and report on paramedic compensation across Canadian jurisdictions.

But BJ Chute, spokesperson for the paramedics, told The Tyee they had spoken with Ministry of Labour representatives yesterday and found the ministry was "not interested in the union speaking to Trumpy, nor in talking about issues important to paramedics."

Chute said Trumpy had phoned John Strohmaier, president of CUPE 873, which represents the paramedics, but had offered very little beyond the ministry's news release about the commission.

"Trumpy is a longtime friend of this government," Chute told The Tyee. He said Trumpy had been "hip deep" in the government's pre-election prediction of a $495 million deficit that became $4 billion after the election.

"He was also the chief government negotiator in the sale of BC Rail."

As a result, said Chute, "With no true terms of reference, and no unbiased commission, Trumpy doesn't have credibility. We won't be participating."

But the paramedics are still willing to meet with Trumpy, "if he'll give us terms of reference. We'll discuss them and vote on it. Otherwise, we won't be a party to dismantling the B.C. Ambulance Service."

Crawford Kilian is a contirbuting editor of The Tyee.

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