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Unifor doing everything possible to avoid paramedic strike, says Local 1359 president

Offers proposal to city ahead of April 4 labour board decision
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Paramedics represented by Unifor Local 1359 hold a rally outside of City Hall before a City Council meeting in December, 2017. James Hopkin/SooToday

NEWS RELEASE
UNIFOR 1359
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After an all-day hearing at the Ontario Labour Relations Board there is still no decision on whether paramedics employed in the EMS division of Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services are in a legal strike position.

“Unifor has proposed a solution that we hope will foster discussions as a means to avoid any disruption in emergency services in Sault Ste. Marie,” said Laurie Lessard-Brown, Unifor Local 1359 President. "We are doing everything possible to avoid a strike and it's our hope the city will carefully consider our proposal."

The city of Sault Ste. Marie delayed a strike set for February 28, 2018 when it 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. Last fall a conciliator ruled 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.

The employer’s last offer would have Sault Ste. Marie’s 54 paramedics earning far less than other Ontario first responders who do the same work.

The parties are still far apart on reaching a consensus over the essential service agreement and will be back before the OLRB on for a decision on April 4, 2018.

“This means there will be no immediate strike action and of course our preference would be to bargain in good faith to reach a new collective agreement that recognizes the value of the work paramedics perform every single day,” said Fred Bond, Unifor National Representative.

The union is encouraging residents in Sault Ste. Marie to contact municipal politicians and insist they negotiate fairly with first responders.

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