Paramedic services return in all affected areas after ambulance strike ends, Bill 24 gets royal assent

Emily White, a paramedic with one of seven companies owned by Bob Fewer, and her colleagues were at Confederation Building Monday, as elected officials debated a bill to send them back to work with more regulations to help continue negotiations. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)
Emily White, a paramedic with one of seven companies owned by Bob Fewer, and her colleagues were at Confederation Building Monday, as elected officials debated a bill to send them back to work with more regulations to help continue negotiations. (Terry Roberts/CBC - image credit)

Paramedic services have returned to all areas in Newfoundland affected by a private ambulance operators' strike.

Eastern Health, Central Health and Western Health all confirmed that services resumed by Tuesday evening. Paramedic services resumed by 8:30 a.m. in Western Health and 10:30 a.m. in Eastern Health.

A bill to push paramedics and emergency medical responders back to work received royal assent in Newfoundland and Labrador, when it was signed into law Tuesday morning.

It was passed by elected officials around 9 p.m. on Monday but couldn't come into force without the approval of the lieutenant-governor.

Teamsters Local 855 business agent Hubert Dawe said his members will now return to work. The union will send a letter to the employer, Bob Fewer, to start the process of drafting an essential services agreement, which will establish what functions are considered essential and how many people are needed to maintain that standard.

Once that's done, Dawe said, some members will return to the picket line while others will continue working to meet the terms set out in the essential services agreement.

If they can't come to an agreement on essential services, the matter will be referred to the province's labour relations board.

Despite the provincial government taking some backlash from the NDP and the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour for legislating workers back, Dawe said it was something the union wanted to see happen.

"The biggest issue this union has faced dealing with this employer has been his procrastination," he said Tuesday morning. "Now with this new legislation, we have clear defined timelines and we have an ultimate outcome which would be binding arbitration."

Kyle Mooney/CBC
Kyle Mooney/CBC

He said arbitration was important for the union, since they believe it would end the current dispute with a positive outcome for their side.

"We know that any independent party that is going to sit down [while] we make our case for our workers is not going to look at this system and say this is the best system for these people and the province of Newfoundland and Labrador."

Dawe said the union didn't get a chance to look at the legislation until Monday morning. They suggested some changes, and were happy to see them written in after some debate.

"All three parties were very receptive to that and they made sure those concerns were addressed in that document," he said.

Even though the strike is now officially over, the labour minister warned it could take some time for those seven ambulance services to resume work. It's not immediately clear when the workers can get back to their ambulances.

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