Quebec resumes talks with striking paramedics
Health Minister says he doesn't expect to reach an agreement today
Striking ambulance workers and Quebec's health minister are expected to meet again today for another attempt at ending the two-week old strike.
The 2,500 striking paramedics, affiliated with the CSN labour federation, began their strike on Christmas eve.
The talks come as Quebec's Liberal opposition calls for the government to speed up the pace of negotiations.
As part of an essential service, the ambulance technicians are required to provide emergency care during a contract dispute.
But former Liberal health minister Yves Bolduc said even though the ambulance workers are picking up patients, their pressure tactics are having an impact.
Health Minister Réjean Hébert is set to meet today with the union.
Earlier in the week, Hébert said he did not expect to reach an agreement with the CSN on Wednesday because of the union's extensive demands.
He also said any eventual contract would take into account the government's ability to pay for it. According to Hébert, the deal must be in line with the salaries of other workers in the health sector.
"I told them our leeway was limited but that there was a leeway," Hébert said on Monday.
ERs under pressure
Ambulance workers have stopped telling hospitals when new non-emergency cases are brought in, subsequently making work more difficult for staff in emergency rooms.
Hospitals have reportedly been inundated with an abnormally large amount of patients suffering from flu and gastroenteritis symptoms.
Over the weekend, the union representing thousands of striking ambulance technicians and paramedics held protests around the province to pressure health officials into returning to the bargaining table.
About 30 ambulance technicians and paramedics protested next to Urgences-Santé's headquarters in Montreal on Sunday afternoon.
2 years without a contract
Ambulance workers have been without a contract since March 2010 and had been in negotiations since February 2011 until talks broke down at the end of December.
The CSN, which represents nearly 60 per cent of the province's ambulance workers, reached a tentative deal in July, but 71 per cent of its members voted against the deal in October.