Micpar, been busy? sorry I haven't been in touch yet, been busy as well.
Minister of Employment and Immigration
423 Legislature Building
Edmonton, AB T5K 2B6
Dear Minister Goudreau:
I would like to thank you for meeting with me on July 23, 2008. It was useful and informative to be able to discuss our various concerns with you regarding the legislated changes to the delivery of Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
We understand that there are still many issues to address to finalize the changes the government announced on May 29, 2008. On behalf of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, we would like to take this opportunity to provide commentary on the legislated changes to the Alberta Labour Relations Code pertaining to EMS and our members we represent.
The specific provision we are referring to is Section 35 of the Code:
Ambulance attendant bargaining units
35.1(1) Notwithstanding any certificate to the contrary, a bargaining unit that includes ambulance attendants as defined in the Ambulance Services Act who are represented by a bargaining agent shall not include any other employees, other than employees to whom Division 16 applies.
(2) Subsection (1) does not apply in respect of a region-wide functional bargaining unit established under section 162.1 and the regulations under that section.
We understand that the major thrust of the new provisions was to ensure that ambulance attendants would be covered by essential services legislation. We also have no problem with the proposition that ambulance attendants should be in a bargaining unit comprised solely of ambulance attendants.
However, we do have concerns with subsection (2) and what it means for the delivery of EMS in the province.
It is the position of CUPE that, irrespective of whether a third party or a health region directly provides EMS, the ambulance attendants should be and remain in a separate bargaining unit dedicated to the specific needs and concerns of the emergency medical personnel.
As Canadas largest union, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) represents a vast number of paramedics in every province across Canada with the exception of Manitoba (IAFF). It is our hope that Alberta will not be an exception and that our CUPE certificates and representation continue.
CUPE currently represents the largest number of unionized paramedics in Alberta. We understand the needs of paramedics as our paramedic locals are run by paramedics. Our experience has shown EMS employees providing first response medical aid are best served by having their own bargaining unit. We submit that due to the unique circumstances surrounding the EMS bargaining unit, the current four functional bargaining units that currently exist are not the most appropriate fit. A stand alone EMS functional bargaining unit would be logical, the least problematic and most efficient for the provincial government to consider when incorporating EMS into the newly formed heath care system.
We suggest that a fifth stand alone functional bargaining unit exclusively recognizing EMS would be most appropriate. EMS is a large enough community of interest group that has unique qualities for this specific group to be stand alone.
There are several areas of commonality among this large group of specialized workers.
Historically, EMS has developed in the community as an adjunct to the acute care medical services provided in hospitals. They are still referred to as pre-hospital medical services. As such, EMS has a different scope of practice from that provided in the emergency rooms of hospitals.
Although EMS will now be recognized as part of healthcare, their day to day concerns do not take place inside a hospital. The front line employees are still out on the road and their concerns differ greatly from other health care workers. There are other EMS-related personnel who are not road-staff, but are isolated from other health care personnel as they only have interaction relating to the front-line EMS staff. They require access to the expertise and intricate knowledge of the EMS world.
From the inception of EMS, ambulance attendants have required provincial licensing and have a very clear set out scope of practice that is administered by the College of Paramedics. The licensing protocols covered by the Alberta College of Paramedics affect everyone in this bargaining unit, are very specific, and the regulations they must follow do not pertain to any other group of health care employees.
Once the changes to the Health Professions Act are in place replacing the Ambulance Act, the bargaining units will be affected in the way they conduct themselves on a daily basis.
The goal of creating a seamless delivery of health services is laudable, but it will not change what will be happening with respect to the services the citizens expect when they require an ambulance. In many situations, police and fire will also be required and responding.
Paramedics are designated a Public Safety Occupation, and since 2007 are entitled to early retirement provisions which separate them from other employees covered under the functional bargaining units in health care. They have pension, supplemental pension, bridged benefits and other unique working conditions/benefits that need to be considered as well.
Several of the existing EMS groups have formed Guards of Honour, similar to Police and Fire, representing paramedics in their communities attending formal venues, weddings, funerals and public civic functions marching proudly shoulder to shoulder with Police and Fire. They have dedicated countless hours of marching drills and practicing proper protocols that are proudly recognized and used across Canada in formal events, not to mention their investment in proper formal attire and upkeep for the Guard members and the Pipers. The Paramedic Guard of Honour is a community amongst themselves across Canada that has become an integral part of formal events and they would not likely want to lose this part of their identity as EMS. This status and recognition would continue if they were in an EMS only focused environment.
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All of these factors contribute to our contention that ambulance attendants should be represented and remain represented by a bargaining unit that is devoted solely to their concerns.
Section 35.1(2) of the Labour Relations Code would suggest that the representation of ambulance attendants would be dependant upon who happens to sign the paycheque of the paramedic. We respectfully submit that this possibility would not be in the best interest or serve the goals of EMS or the citizens of Alberta. Irrespective of who issues the paycheques for ambulance attendants, the community of interest of paramedics remains with paramedics.
We have two key concerns with how section 35.1(2) would impact the delivery of EMS and the personnel committed to its delivery. Section 35.1(2) suggests that if the regional health authority is the direct employer of the ambulance attendants, then the ambulance attendants would be considered to be covered by the paramedical professional/technical functional bargaining unit.
With all due respect, the paramedical professional/technical bargaining unit was created to deal with the paramedical professionals, technologists and technicians that operate within the confines of an acute care hospital. The concerns and community of interest of this group of professional health providers are distinctly different from the concerns of the paramedics responding to an emergency on the ground. We believe that sweeping the paramedics into the paramedical bargaining unit will not serve the interests of ambulance attendants or the interests of providing the best pre-hospital care possible. As well, given that the door is still open to the use of third-party delivery of EMS, paramedics will be faced with having different bargaining units and different bargaining agents, depending on how the service is delivered. Terms and conditions of employment may diverge, and not necessarily to the advantage of the goal of seamless health care delivery.
It would be difficult to pigeon-hole all EMS-related employees into other specific functional bargaining units, as they do not all fit part & parcel into only one area. Since there are more than just paramedics and EMTs that are included in an EMS bargaining unit, how do you decide? Paramedics are similar to nurses. EMTs are not. What about the VSAs, Clinical & Public Educators, mechanics, dispatchers and other EMS related personnel? Do you put some into UNA, others in HSAA, and the rest into GSS? Fragmenting EMS throughout various bargaining units is not the answer. We suggest it would be much more appropriate to keep all of EMS together and that can happen if there is the creation of a 5th functional bargaining unit for EMS only.
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Again, in our view, irrespective of who signs the paycheques, paramedics should form and have their own bargaining unit dedicated to deal with their concerns and interests in the delivery of EMS. This bargaining unit would apply whether the health region directly provides the service or a third party provides the service. It would contribute to the continuity which is the goal of the government for a seamless health care system.
We ask you take this into consideration in making a decision where our EMS staff will be designated in the near future.
We thank you for your attention. We would be happy to meet with you further to share our perspectives.
CUPE Alberta Region
pc: R. Liepert, Minister of Health and Wellness
D. Wyntjes, Regional Director
L. Huebscher, Legal Representative
D. Rachert, CUPE Representative - Calgary
D. Gervais, CUPE Representative - Edmonton
Calgary * Camrose * Cochrane * Edmonton *
Fort MacLeod * Parkland * St. Paul *
Taber * Westlock
Provincial in Design and Local in Delivery
Paramedics representing Paramedics
With the endorsement and support of the Alberta Coalition of CUPE
Paramedics, Rick Fraser, Paramedic and President of Local 3421 in Calgary
and Gerry Wiles, Paramedic and President of Local 3197 in Edmonton have
been working diligently to contact all elected officials that will have an impact
on the future of Alberta Paramedics. We have been in direct contact with
Alberta Health and Wellness, Alberta Employment, Immigration and Industry,
Alberta Health Services Board Representatives, both the Calgary and
Edmonton, elected MLAs, civic politicians and government policy makers.
Our message is that Paramedics must continue to be able to represent
Paramedics if we are to be an integral part of the health care system.
Our Coalition has been making the case throughout this transition that
Paramedics can be a great asset to our health care system with our credentials,
our experience and our willingness to be active participants in the transition
Under current legislation, there are four functional bargaining units in
health care in each health region direct nursing; auxiliary nursing; general
support services; and paramedical professional and technical. Without a change
to the current legislation Paramedics would be absorbed into one of the four
functional bargaining units without a vote.
Provincial in Design and Local in Delivery
Paramedics representing Paramedics
Through our Coalition we are speaking out about the importance of EMS
best practices that support our ability to deliver top notch emergency medical
services. We are the only Paramedics speaking about the future of EMS,
recruitment and retention, and the need for more appropriate recognition for the
responsibility we have in our communities and the lives we impact.
Our Paramedic Coalition has and will continue to take strong leadership
to move our profession forward. We will continue to take our rightful place as
emergency health care professionals, with appropriate and comparable wages
and benefits, in the health care system.
The Alberta Coalition of CUPE Paramedics are united in this message.
Paramedics have the right to represent Paramedics.
Alberta Coalition of CUPE Paramedics
The Alberta Coalition of CUPE Paramedics is the only group of
unionized Paramedics taking an active role in the transition of EMS to health
services. We are speaking out about the potential advancement of Paramedics
through good medical direction. We are speaking out about the opportunity for higher education in universities so that eventually we can do our own medical base evidence research for our profession. We are the only Paramedics speaking out about our rights and our vision for the future.
We are asking the provincial government and lobbying MLAs and
government policy makers to designate a 5th functional bargaining unit for
Paramedics. This bargaining unit would include all ambulance attendants in
each health region. This will give Paramedics the right to play an integral role
in our future without conflict of interests from other allied health professionals.
With the designation of a 5th functional bargaining unit Paramedics would have the right to decide who is the best bargaining agent to represent Paramedics.
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