Paramedic strike avoided, sent to binding arbitration
There will be no paramedic strike this weekend.
The Nova Scotia government reconvened Friday morning for a rare summer sitting and sent the dispute to binding arbitration.
The two sides will now have to submit their final offers and the arbitrator will choose one option within 90 days of their appointment.
No arbitrator has been appointed yet.
The NDP government said while they support collective bargaining it failed in this case.
"There was no prospect of an offer," said Labour Minister Frank Corbett.
A strike would have dropped the province's ambulance fleet from 100 to 30 vehicles covering the entire province. There would have been no LifeFlight.
Corbett said with high temperatures forecast for the weekend, more people are expected to hit the roads and the water. He said the risk of having only a fraction of the province's ambulances on the road prompted the government to take action.
Paramedics picketed in front of Province House during the briefing.
Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, called the move disappointing, but acknowledged the difficult circumstances.
"It's wrenching to say that if you're not at the table... and you're not offering emergency services including LifeFlight what do we have left to do?" she said. "At the end of the day the two sides aren't talking."
"Because of that I don't have thousands of members down here."
Terry Chapman, chief negotiator for the paramedics, said his members want resolution.
"I think they'll be satisfied with the whatever the ruling is based on the fact that it's the ruling and they have no other choose," he said.
"I find it personally sad."
Union members have repeatedly rejected offers from their employer Emergency Medical Care, recently voting 73 per cent against a deal that would have given them a defined benefit pension plan — a key union demand
The union says it's also seeking better wages — a 15 per cent pay hike over three years rather than the 11.1 per cent over almost five years that was offered in the tentative agreement.
with files from the Canadian Press