Calgary paramedics reject binding arbitration

Edmonton Journal, Page B5, Sat July 21 2007
Byline: Kim Guttormson

CALGARY - Calgary's paramedics are moving ahead with what are likely futile strike preparations, after rejecting an offer to enter into binding arbitration with the city.

The union for 440 emergency medical personnel isn't saying when it will give its 72-hour strike notice, only allowing that it will be sometime next week.

"We're trying to get all our logistics for a strike organized," paramedics spokeswoman Rina Campus said Friday after the union rejected overtures from the city to enter into binding arbitration.

However, a strike isn't expected to happen.

The provincial government has indicated it will step in and halt any strike action either by putting in place a disputes inquiry board or an emergency resolution tribunal.

However, the province can't act until the union issues its strike notice.

The paramedics have been without a contract for more than a year. Earlier this week, they voted 99 per cent in favour of walking off the job.

City spokeswoman Vickie Megrath said they were officially notified Friday that the union won't enter into binding arbitration to settle the lone remaining issue -- money.

"We'll continue with our contingency plans and continue to be available to continue discussions," she said.

The Alberta Federation of Labour also jumped into the debate, asking the province not to interfere with the bargaining process.

President Gil McGowan said in a news release the right to strike is the only way workers can gain a fair contract.

The city has offered paramedics 12 per cent over three years. The paramedics want 18 per cent, plus a retroactive market adjustment they feels is necessary to bring salaries in line with other city employees.

The union said an EMT worker makes $21.96 an hour to start, with a top wage of $26.70 an hour.

The hourly wages for paramedics range from $23.74 to $30.26, while crew chiefs make $30.26 to $33.54.


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