On April 5, 2018, Unifor local 1359 went to Toronto to meet with the Ontario Labour Regulations Board to determine the acceptable levels of ambulance services that would be required in the Sault in the event of a strike that would lead to reduction of services. ‘
The goal of the OLRB was to minimize the risk to the citizens and limit liabilities.
At that time, the City of Sault Ste. Marie took the position that ambulance services were already only operating at a bare minimum. When the OLRB looked at the statistics, they not only agreed with the city’s position, they also instructed the city to staff more ambulances at an “on-call” basis.
After much deliberation the union has now decided that a mutual binding arbitration is the best course of action to finally resolve these contract issues. With the Essential Ambulance Services Agreement being given, the local paramedics decided that a strike would be ineffective and also not in the best interest for the citizens of the Sault. “I live in the Sault and my family is here as well,” said local union president Laurie Lessard-Brown. “I could not in my right mind ask the paramedics to reduce services to a point where there is the potential that any citizen could be seriously affected.”
Lessard-Brown added that the union wished to bargain a fair contract without the need of expensive arbitration to decide on a contract for them. “The city showed over the past year that they had no problem spending a significant amount of tax payer money delaying and pushing for a costly arbitration with their expensive Toronto-based lawyers.” She said the paramedics here “feel as though the citizens of the Sault need to know that their tax dollars are getting them less than what is being recommended by the non-biased OLRB.”
The union’s opinion is that the city of Sault Ste. Marie continues to operate by their own mandate and are not providing the best service possible, which has been significantly behind the rest of the province for years.
Advanced Care Paramedics, Community Paramedicine, power loaded stretchers, and increased staffing levels are all measures that could improve the response and level of care in the city.
Unfortunately, the corporation continues to show that it prioritizes balancing the budget over the potential risk to the community.
Unifor urges the community to use its democratic voice and make this issue heard. With municipal elections around the corner, local paramedics suggest voting for councillors who will deal with these important issues and finally make change in Sault Ste. Marie.
Unifor Local 1359 would like to take the time to thank all their paramedics for their hard work and dedication they provide to the community. From their lifesaving skills to walking a mile in red high heels, they are there when we need them. Thank you for all that you do!