Friday, November 13, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Paramedics are forced back to work, parking dominates the city council agenda again and Rio Tinto Alcan advises that while the refurbishment of the Kitimat smelter may still be on the books, economic conditions will have to improve first before we see much progress on it, some of the items of note in the News mill for Thursday.

Daily News, front page, headline story
PROVINCE'S PARAMEDICS LEGISLATED BACK TO WORK-- With the Legislature sitting on Saturday to pass back to work legislation in an all night session, the province's paramedics will be expected back on the job. The Daily News reviewed that legislation and outlined the reaction to it from local shop steward Tanis Greer.

The always popular Cow Bay parking issues once again took centre stage at Prince Rupert city council, the Atlin Terminal Pay Parking lot of particular interest, especially to those merchants in the area who pushed for some of the changes determined by council on Monday night. From now on, from October 1 to April 30 parking at the lot will be free, for the remainder of the year the first two hours will be free after that it will cost 1 dollar an hour or five dollars for five hours or more.

That issue and others were featured in the regular City council voting log, this week found on page five of the Daily News.

(Daily News Archive Articles for November 12 )

The Northern View
Prince Rupert school board officially names new school-- School District makes it official, after some nine months of thought, the name of the new school which opened earlier this year on Third Avenue will remain as Pacific Coast School (see story here)

CFTK TV 7 News
RTA Boss Says Kitimat Smelter Modernization Still On the Books-- With the Eurocan closure ont he horizon, Kitimat residents are getting a little nervous about the plans that Rio Tinto Alcan may have for the Kitimat Works smelter. Paul Henning , Tio Tinto Alcan's Vice President for BC Operations outlined where that project stands and commented on rumours of a resurrection of the Kemano Completion project (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Flight Services to be Cut Back At Smithers Airport -- Smithers residents and their council offer some reaction to the announcement of staffing cuts and reduced operating hours at the Smithers Airport, with Nav Canada setting an implementation date of the end of April 2010. (see article here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
(No items updated on their website due to technical difficulties)

Daily News, front page, headline story
Province's paramedics legislated back to work
By Monica Lamb-Yorski
The Daily News
Thursday, November 12, 2009

The province’s paramedics were legislated back to work Saturday morning after an all-night session in the B.C. legislature passed Bill 21.

Reacting to the legislation Tanis Greer, shop steward and member of the negotiating committee for CUPE 873 in Prince Rupert, said the union has been stripped of its democratic rights.

“The government has showed us absolutely no respect and tries to push us around. They used H1N1 as an excuse. They need to have us work at the Olympics,” Greer said at Sunday afternoon at the ambulance station in Prince Rupert.

On Tuesday Minister of Health Kevin Falcon responded to Greer’s comments.

“Ultimately, with the H1N1 pandemic impacting British Columbia and winter fast approaching – the public needs certainty that full service levels are restored within the BC Ambulance Service and this legislation is about protecting patients and ensuring the safety of the citizens of British Columbia. We can’t afford the risk of BC Ambulance Service not operating at 100 percent when the rest of the system is under stress,” he said.

North Coast MLA Gary Coons also believes the government used H1N1 as an excuse and said it was really the Olympics and pressure from VANOC that drove the

“This legislation seems to have been influenced by VANOC and the VANOC Medical Services who requested that the Campbell government either settle or legislate the strike so that services would not be interrupted during the Olympic Games. The government chose legislation that will not only set back future negotiations with the paramedics, but will inflame the labour relations climate just months before public sector negotiations,” Coons said.

Speaking about the Olympics, Falcon noted that B.C. paramedics have always played a role in staffing major special events in the province – from the Vancouver Celebration of Lights last summer to the recent Victoria

“In fact,” said Falcon. “The Labour Relations Board ruled in August that major special events like the Celebration of Lights are essential services because it is vital that paramedics staff such events to protect public health and safety in the event of an emergency.”

According to Falcon the upcoming Olympics are no different, a point, he said, was reaffirmed by the Labour Relations Board when it made an order designating several pre-game trial events as essential.

“It’s also important to keep in mind that BCAS has been involved in planning for the Olympics since the bid was submitted in 1998. A two-member team has been dedicated to planning for the Olympics since the fall of 2007,” Falcon added.

The plan for the union now will be to go back to bargaining on December 10 and start working on a contract for the end of March 2010, but the trouble with that timeline, said Greer, is B.C.’s 168 public sector unions all come up for contract reunion at that time.

“We’ll be up too, so that will give us absolutely no bargaining power,” Greer explained, adding that in 2001, the union signed its twelfth agreement and in 2005 signed an MOA and an MOU, making a few tweaks that would carry the union to 2009.

On November 6, the same day Bill 21 went to the legislature, the paramedics voted 98.2 percent against the government’s latest offer.

According to Greer “people didn’t care – they basically felt like the government had taken away their rights. Throughout the bargaining process, the government showed up on each occasion with no mandate. They sent six people and none of them had any authority. They basically played games with us.”

Falcon disagreed saying the government always bargained in good faith with CUPE 873.

“In our view, this legislation is justified because the collective bargaining process in this sector has failed and there is no prospect of a negotiated collective agreement. The legislated settlement introduced by government is based on the final offer BCAS tabled during the last round of talks in September. This includes an across the board compensation increase of 3 per cent for a one-year term retroactive to April 1, 2009. The increase is consistent with what other health care professionals are receiving this year,” the minister said.

“As a result of this lengthy strike, the risks to public safety continue to grow. This legislation attempts to eliminate these risks to public safety while the appointment of the Industrial Inquiry Commissioner by the Minister of Labour will address the broader, systemic barriers to effective collective bargaining in the sector,” Falcon added.

At one point last weekend the opposition made a hoist motion that would have allowed for a six-month period to move forward with a contract that wasn’t legislated.

When it was his turn to speak to the hoist motion Coons said, “one of the reasons we need to hoist this bill is to give the members on the other side an opportunity to stand and reflect and realize we are going in the wrong direction with an imposed contract.”

Then quoting from an email he received from Terry Mitchell, Chief Paramedic for Port Clements, Coons read:

“The hoist motion introduced by the opposition is perhaps the only thing, the only thing at this point in time, that could demonstrate good faith on the part of the government.”

Since the union went on strike April 1, after their current contract expired, Greer said the union has continued to maintain duties to the public, but also chose the time to raise public awareness about the strike by wearing t-shirts, buttons and posting signs.

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