B.C. paramedics call for same bargaining as police and firefighters

B.C.’s paramedics are petitioning to get the same bargaining rights as firefighters and the police.

Vanderhoof paramedics Amanda Wiebe (left) and Denise Raymond canvass at Vanderhoof Co-op mall on Jan. 28 for signatures to support the province-wide petition to include paramedics as part of essential services.

Vanderhoof paramedics Amanda Wiebe (left) and Denise Raymond canvass at Vanderhoof Co-op mall on Jan. 28 for signatures to support the province-wide petition to include paramedics as part of essential services.

B.C.’s paramedics are petitioning to get the same bargaining rights as firefighters and the police.

Setting up shop at Vanderhoof Co-op mall on Jan. 28, Amanda Wiebe and Denise Raymond of Vanderhoof are two of 800 canvassers across the province gathering signatures for a petition to have paramedics included in the Fire and Police Services Collective Bargaining Act.

Currently under the same Health Authorities Act as hospital staff like janitors and cafeteria workers, paramedics have the right to strike.

“Right now we can be locked out; if someone has cardiac arrest, we couldn’t help,” said Raymond, who has been a paramedic for the last four years and is one of 24 part-timers in Vanderhoof. “If we are essential and mandated to work, we can better support the public, as they have guaranteed paramedics all the time.”

The group needs signatures from 10 per cent of eligible voters by April 10; in the Nechako Lakes riding, it equates to about 1,700 people. Almost 200 signatures have been gathered so far in the region since the canvassers’ start on Jan. 27, and the eight-person canvassing team is looking for more helpers non-paramedics are welcome, Raymond said.

Billie Kneen of Vanderhoof added her name to the petition on Jan. 28 and didn’t know that paramedics were not included in the provincial Act as essential services.

“I believe they should be; for my family they are an essential service,” Kneen said. “My husband is a brittle diabetic and they get called often to our house.

“I don’t know what I’d do without them.”