SAULT STE. MARIE, ON, Feb 27, 2018 - A last-minute decision from Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) has delayed a legal strike by paramedics that was to begin at midnight on February 28.
"The city of Sault Ste. Marie would rather spend huge sums of tax-payers money on legal fees trying to delay this strike, rather than bargain with these hard-working paramedics," said Laurie Lessard-Brown, Unifor Local 1359 President. "It is disappointing that the Mayor and Councilors are wasting so much time and money."
The employer applied to the OLRB to have the existing Essential Service Agreement declared invalid, even though it was agreed to by the union and employer, in the previous collective agreement. A conciliator has already clarified that these paramedics are not covered by Ontario's Hospital Labour Disputes Arbitration Act, and were in a legal strike position as of midnight February 28, 2018.
While the City has been clear that they would prefer to defer responsibility of a settlement to a third party arbitrator, the union believes bargaining a settlement in good faith is the only path to recognizing the value of the work paramedics perform every single day.
The OLRB will hear the case on March 12, 2018, and Unifor is hoping for a quick resolution for the 54 paramedics who are represented by local 1359 and have been without a contract since March 2017.
"Unifor believes we have a valid Essential Service Agreement and are extremely disappointed in a decision that allows the city to delay the inevitable," said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President, after meeting with the union's bargaining committee. "In fact, while the employer was busy hiring lawyers to submit a complaint to the OLRB, the union was preparing to continue negotiations right up until the deadline."
The union had made a comprehensive offer to settle all outstanding issues, but the city responded with an offer that would have Sault Ste. Marie paramedics earning far less than other Ontario first responders who do the same work. Unifor representatives indicated the union is prepared to return to negotiations at any time, and is asking all residents of Sault Ste. Marie to encourage their elected municipal representatives to do the same.