B.C. government, paramedics, dispatchers reach collective agreement through mediation

A paramedic is pictured at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in January 2022.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A paramedic is pictured at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver in January 2022. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

With the help of a mediator, the province and its paramedics and dispatchers have reached a tentative collective agreement, with details to be released in coming weeks once the deal is ratified.

In a joint release issued on Saturday, the Health Employers Association of B.C. (HEABC) and the Ambulance Paramedics & Ambulance Dispatchers Association (APADBA) said the two sides reached the deal with the assistance of mediator Vince Ready.

"Both sides of the table have expressed their appreciation to Mr. Ready and for the respectful tone of these negotiations in being able to reach an agreement that supports patient care and addresses the priorities of both parties and the Ministry of Health," said the release.

The last collective agreement expired on April 1, 2022.

The union representing 4,500 paramedics, dispatchers and call-takers — Ambulance Paramedics of B.C. (APBC), CUPE Local 873 — said the agreement comes at a time when workers are struggling to cope under working conditions from several emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the toxic drug poisoning crisis.

Over the past year there have been several headline-grabbing instances of sick, ill or injured people waiting too long before an ambulance and paramedics were able to respond.

In a release, the APBC said "it's been sounding the alarm about staffing and recruitment for years, while working through some of the hardest times in their nearly 50-year history."

In late October last year the provincial government and the union signed a temporary deal around working conditions in an effort to immediately improve staffing in remote communities across the province.

It was scheduled to stay in place until New Year's Eve or until the province and union reach a more permanent deal in contract negotiations.

APBC President Troy Clifford said in a release that the agreement was "a giant step towards providing the appropriate level of care to our patients across B.C."

Meanwhile, the provincial Ministry of Health said in an email statement it was "very pleased to hear that both parties have reached a tentative agreement.

"Out of respect for the integrity of the ratification process, and the rights of union members to vote on their collective agreements, as well as health employers in the sector, we'll leave any further comment until that process is complete. "