Paramedics in rural Newfoundland are ready to strike. It's just a matter of when, says union

Hubert Dawe, a business agent of Teamsters Local 855 representing paramedics and ambulance workers in rural Newfoundland, says it's only a matter of time before over 100 workers go on strike. (Alex Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Hubert Dawe, a business agent of Teamsters Local 855 representing paramedics and ambulance workers in rural Newfoundland, says it's only a matter of time before over 100 workers go on strike. (Alex Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
Alex Kennedy/CBC
Alex Kennedy/CBC

The union representing more than 100 paramedics and ambulance workers in rural Newfoundland says their members will soon be on strike, and that it's only a decision of when.

Employees of the Fewer Group of Ambulances have been working toward a new collective agreement since February. The group is made up of seven emergency service operators from across Newfoundland, including in Ferryland, Trepassey, Come By Chance, Gambo and Clarenville.

Hubert Dawe, a business agent of Teamsters Local 855 representing the workers, told CBC News in December that the union has been in a position to legally strike since Nov. 18, but have waited until they can meet with employees of the seven companies. There are no meetings scheduled between the union and employer in the new year, he said.

Dawe has met with five of the companies who voted 100 per cent in favour of a strike, and hopes to meet with the final two by the end of this week.

"The members seem very strong and determined that this is the course of action that they need to take and that significant change needs to come in this industry. Particularly in rural Newfoundland and Labrador," Dawe said Tuesday.

"I'm hoping to have all the strike committees in place and their plans drafted by the end of this week."

Dawe said strikes would quickly begin after the plans are in place. They would would start with a work to rule campaign, adding that the public won't see an initial difference in quality of care, and escalate as time goes on, he said.

Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC
Rafsan Faruque Jugol/CBC

"Other duties that our paramedics perform while at the workplace will cease to occur with the hopes that the employer will see how much extra work our paramedics and [emergency medical responders] are actually doing," Dawe added.

"We're going to be looking at doing our strategic striking, which is going to mean pulling all ambulance services for a 12 to 24 hour period in a rotating fashion through our bases."

Although the majority of strike plans are currently in place, Dawe says paramedics and ambulance workers are ready to go all the way to the picket line.

"They wanted to see change years ago," he said.

Alex Kennedy/CBC
Alex Kennedy/CBC

Dawe says he and employees want both the Fewer group and the provincial government to come to the negotiating table as soon as possible, adding any kind of deal would be better than what they've received so far.

CBC News has contacted both Bob Fewer, who owns the Fewer Group of Ambulances, and the Department of Health for comment.

Fewer hasn't responded to requests for comment, while the Health Department said last month it wouldn't weigh in on the issue due to ongoing negotiations.

Government has not yet responded to a request for comment Tuesday.

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