Wednesday, July 17, 2024

CUPE marches for paramedic wellness at opening of new Stirling-based facility

The members of local CUPE local 1842 group march in front of the new Hastings-Quinte Paramedics Services building in Stirling during its opening ceremonies on June 24. – Emma Persaud photo

The new Hastings-Quinte Paramedic Services building in Stirling spent its opening ceremonies with a ribbon of CUPE paramedic workers marching for better wages out in front.

Rob Cunningham, president of CUPE group, said their consultations on receiving better working conditions have stalled. He said this led CUPE members and their supporters to come out to raise awareness about the “tireless work” the paramedics in the area take on.

“Our contract expired in December 2023 and after four days at the bargaining table, there’s been no movement. We’ve been asking for better wages, structured meal breaks and other better working conditions. We are out here raising awareness on the needs of paramedics.

“We aren’t asking for anything above and beyond,” he added. “We’re just looking to serve these skilled individuals for what they’re worth.“

Coming to Stirling, Cunningham said, was a timely choice: The new Hastings-Quinte Paramedics Services building in the village is opening its doors Monday, and receiving a paramedics truck from Belleville. A truck Cunningham said is needed where it already is.

“Belleville is a very busy urban centre where a lot of our services are going,” he said. “So they aren’t actually adding services, just reallocating them, which is going to cause decreased response time in Belleville or the truck will be moved back for emergency coverage.”

Cunningham added that they have received great support from the community and passing drivers who honk their horns to the cheers of the marchers. He said he hopes that by shining a light on the work paramedics do every day, they will help move negotiations forward, as well as bring new workers to this area.

“This area has an issue with recruitment; we’re finding, we’ve had multiple ships that are downstaffed, including this past weekend. It’s a competitive market for paramedics and we are one of the lowest paid and also one of the busiest – actually the busiest area – according to the warden’s report of 2022, except for Ottawa.”

The new paramedic building is going to help, according to Cunningham, but he said having enough people to cover the area is what’s really going to make the difference.

“It will be very helpful for the area. It will bring a decrease in response times and our community paramedics who provide non-urgent care will also be out of this base…It is a nice facility. It’s large and what we need. It has a huge training room and our logistics will be out of here and one ambulance. It’s good, we just need the resources to support it.”

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