N.S. paramedics march for support in contract dispute
Workers rejected tentative agreement with Emergency Medical Care Inc.
Nova Scotia's ground and air paramedics, who rejected a tentative contract agreement last week, marched to Province House on Tuesday morning to gain support in their contract dispute with their employer, Emergency Medical Care Inc.
About 30 paramedics wearing red T-shirts carried signs and walked from Government House on Barrington Street to Province House on Hollis Street.
"Our primary concerns are over wages, pension and the term of our contract," said Dave Matheson, an advanced care paramedic.
"We recently rejected our last tentative agreement but we're hopeful, we're optimistic that we can reach an agreement with our employer in the near future."
The paramedics' union — the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 727 — had recommended acceptance of the deal, which offered workers a defined-benefit pension plan. The pension plan had been a major sticking point during negotiations.
But the majority of the province's 800 ground and air paramedics rejected the deal, saying they wanted a 15 per cent pay hike over three years rather than the 11.1 per cent over 4.7 years that was offered in the tentative agreement.
"Nova Scotia paramedics are amongst the highest trained and practicing paramedics in all of Canada and yet they're among the lowest compensated," said Matheson.
"Nova Scotia paramedics are truly committed to providing the best pre-hospital care in your community but we need to be taken seriously by our employer, Emergency Medical Care Inc., when it comes to fair wages and pension."
The union has said the average wage for Nova Scotia's paramedics is about $24 an hour, which the union estimates is about $5 to $7 an hour less than counterparts in other provinces.
The paramedics have been without a contract since 2011.
As part of the tentative agreement, the union and employer had agreed there will be no strike or lockout until at least 15 full days after a rejection vote. That means there will be no legal strike action before July 5.