Members of Local 1359 in Sault Ste. Marie have made the decision to go to arbitration after a ruling from the Ontario Labour Relations Board that would have made strike action effectively useless. The ruling ordered that approximately 80% of the 54 paramedics would have to report for duty.
“With six management staff able to perform duties, this would have left the area with no noticeable service reduction, and only a few paramedics off duty to maintain a picket line,” said Laurie Lessard-Brown, President of Local 1359. The collective agreement expired in March 2017, but they continue to work, with an arbitration date to be set.
Ontario Paramedics fall under a unique set of rules in negotiations. They must perform what is deemed to be “essential services” under the Ambulance Act, and they do not automatically have the right to arbitration. “This is frustrating for our members who really just wanted to bargain a fair collective agreement that respected the valuable service they provide,” Lessard-Brown added.
The union maintains that the community would actually be better served with an additional ambulance on the road that would address the increasing call volume and the health care needs of the residents.