Nova Scotia

Cape Breton paramedics seek support in contract dispute

A group of Cape Breton paramedics staged picket in downtown Sydney today, reaching out to the public to tell their side of the ongoing labour dispute.

Nova Scotia's 800 paramedics have been without a contract for 2.5 years

About 25 paramedics wearing red T-shirts and holding signs, passed out pamphlets along George Street in Sydney on Wednesday. Nova Scotia's 800 unionized paramedics have been without a contract for two and a half years. (CBC)

A group of Cape Breton paramedics staged a picket in downtown Sydney today, reaching out to the public to tell their side of the ongoing labour dispute.

Wednesday’s event was one of a series of rotating demonstrations planned throughout the province.

Nova Scotia's 800 unionized paramedics have been without a contract for two and a half years.

About 25 paramedics wearing red T-shirts and holding signs, passed out pamphlets along George Street in Sydney on Wednesday.

Joe Gracie, one of the demonstrators, said the goal is inform the public about what's going on with their contract negotiations.

The paramedics have rejected three tentative agreements so far.

Gracie said the big issue is wages.

"We're not compensated as well as a lot of jurisdictions across the country, and we have an expanded role over the last 10 years, and we really feel we should be compensated for the extra responsibilities we've been taking on," he said.

Debbie Fortune said those extra responsibilities include providing care at collaborative emergency centres and administering clot-busting drugs.

Fortune said the employer, Emergency Medical Care Inc., is quick to point out a new defined benefit pension plan would cost Nova Scotia taxpayers $3 million.

"However they fail to mention the millions of dollars that we save the health care system every year now with our increased scope and these new extended care practises that we are doing," she said.

EMC is a private company that's contracted by the province to provide ambulance services. Fortune said that puts paramedics on an uneven footing compared with other health care workers.

Both sides have agreed there won't be a legal strike or lockout before July 5.

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