The New Brunswick Labour Board has removed the last barrier between paramedics, a new union and higher salaries.
On Monday, the board decided the province did not violate any rules by reclassifying paramedics and asserted they should be considered medical-science professionals.
Paramedics have favoured switching from the Canadian Union of Public Employees to the New Brunswick Union, where they stand to see a wage increase.
In late 2019, then-health minister Ted Flemming said paramedics would be classified as medical-science professionals to recognize their jobs were now more complex and specialized. CUPE, which has represented the approximately 800 paramedics, opposed that move.
CUPE argued the province was contravening the Public Service Labour Relations Act by interfering in the administration of the union, among other reasons. On Monday the labour board dismissed the complaint.
Paramedics have been classified as patient service staff since 1970, says the labour board decision, but the nature of their job has changed and become more technical and medical.
Joel Mattatall, the paramedic who chaired a "reclassification committee," says this classification is finally matching paramedics to their job.
"In 1970s, there was an individual who ... would go in a Ford Bronco or a station wagon, go pick that person up and bring them back to the hospital where the medical professionals work," he said. "Now a modern-day paramedic [is] being the actual medical professional and effectively bringing the emergency room to the patient's living room."
Mattatall said the Treasury Board and the New Brunswick Union have about 15 days to decide which pay band to put paramedics in. He said he's expecting a minimum 7.2 per cent pay increase, as paramedics will be moved into the closest pay band without getting paid less.
The decision to reclassify paramedics was made by Progressive Conservative government in 2019 when it was in a minority government situation and was working alongside the People's Alliance. That year, People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin threatened to start voting against government bills if the health minister didn't move more quickly on the reclassification.
On Monday, Austin applauded the labour board decision.
"This ruling will be a much-needed morale boost to those who work tirelessly to save lives in emergencies across the province," he was quoted as saying in a news release.