The current dispute between B.C.’s Emergency Paramedics and the BC Ambulance Service shows how badly our current “Essential Service” laws do NOT work fairly.
Basically 3,500 workers have been turned into “forced labour” …. unable realistically to quit their jobs; but also unable to take any meaningful job action to force their employer … or the BC government … to negotiate fairer wages or working conditions.
As far as I am concerned … ANY legislation declaring ANY service “essential” and forcing ANY workers to keep providing services weeks and months after the expiration of ANY contract … should also automatically include provisions for mediation and, if that fails, REQUIRED BINDING arbitration within six months by an independent outside adjudicator.
Without such provision, the strike can just keep going on and on … because since the workers keep working, there is no real incentive on the employer to bargain; and, no real incentive on the workers’ part to lower their demands.
And the government can just ignore the dispute and the impact on patients … until the situation deteriorates to a point where “illegal” job action takes place by angry, frustrated workers … and lives are placed in jeopardy.
(But I’ll bet the government won’t continue to ignore it as the Olympics draw near!)
Meanwhile, the damage to morale over the several months before getting to that point cant help but have a negative inpact on the vital service the paramedics provide so many times daily in so many communities across the province.
They deserve better.
With forced binding arbitration looming, I believe both sides would have much more incentive to come to a voluntary agreement. But if they cannot, at least their dispute/negotiations would have an expiry date … after which an indpendent expert or even panel of esperts would decide on a fair settlement.
Essential Service should not just mean Exploitive Service.
By taking away paramedics’ (or fire or police workers’) right to job action, we have curtailed their democratic rights. And made it easier for the employer to refuse to negotiate or settle..
That’s totally unfair … unless the government also legislates a BINDING way for these disputes to be settled in a timely manner … not drag on for six months or more.
Until that happens …the governnment has a responsibility to both the paramedics AND THE PUBLIC to intervene and take part in achieving a solution and a settlement.
Before the paramedics are forced into other action that will do more harm than good.