B.C. paramedics’ effort to be named essential service fails

Members didn’t gather the required number of signatures from each electoral riding to trigger further action

An effort by paramedics to be deemed an essential service and get the same collective bargaining rights as firefighters and police officers has failed.

Despite receiving more than 215,000 signatures during three months of canvassing across B.C., the petition didn’t meet a requirement of 10-per-cent support from each electoral district, Elections BC said in a release.

Paramedics had been looking for the right to go to binding arbitration, rather than having to go on strike, should they hit an impasse while negotiating a new contract with their employer.

Enough signatures would have referred the matter to MLAs or to a province-wide vote.

RELATED: Paramedics’ petition to be deemed essential service finds support

The Victoria paramedic behind the petition, Josh Henshaw, said not enough names were collected in Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria, Nanaimo and Kelowna.

Henshaw suspects they didn’t have enough canvassers in those areas because paramedics there are “stretched the thinnest.”

“When you get slammed hard at work for four days or nights and then get called in on your days off,” Henshaw said, “it’s tough to find the time to canvass as well. We were stuck in a bit of a catch-22 there.”

Although the petition failed, Henshaw said he’s optimistic about the group’s next steps.

“I think most people know that this petition was basically run by me out of my own home on a shoestring budget, and to return 215,192 signatures to Elections BC in 90 days is a significant accomplishment,” he said.

Henshaw says he plans to ride the wave of public support during the next four weeks of B.C. election campaigning.

“I’m very confident that we will get fair bargaining before the next round of negotiations begins.”


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