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Nova Scotia legislature to meet amid possible EMS dispute

July 4, 2013, Halifax – Nova Scotia's labour minister won't say what legislation the government plans when the legislature is recalled Friday to deal with a possible labour disruption involving the province's 800 paramedics.

July 4, 2013
By The Canadian Press

July 4, 2013, Halifax – Nova Scotia's labour minister won't say what legislation the government plans when the legislature is recalled Friday to deal with a possible labour disruption involving the province's 800 paramedics.

Frank Corbett also says the government wants to give both sides one last chance to meet with a conciliator before the house resumes.

Corbett says if the paramedics walk off the job Saturday, the safety of Nova Scotians would be affected and the government can't allow that.

The paramedics will be in a legal strike position at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

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The ground and air ambulance paramedics have repeatedly rejected offers from their employer, Emergency Medical Care.

Members of Local 727 of the International Union of Operating Engineers recently voted 73 per cent against a deal that would have given paramedics a defined benefits pension plan – one of their key demands.

At information pickets following the contract's rejection, union members said they're also seeking better wages.

Some said they're looking for a 15 per cent pay hike over three years rather than the 11.1 per cent over almost five years that was offered in the tentative agreement.

The company said primary care paramedics with five or more years of service earn $50,396 a year, while critical care paramedics with the same amount of service make $67,369.

Dave Matheson, an advanced care paramedic, said members are worried about what may happen when the legislature reconvenes Friday. He said if they're forced back to work, it would eliminate the need for their employer to negotiate.

"We're caught in a tricky spot," said Matheson, a paramedic of 17 years. "We're pretty nervous about the legislation. It's definitely very stressful."

Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie accused the government of meddling in negotiations, adding that the only fair way to resolve the situation is through forced arbitration.

"We know the NDP have been playing both sides in this and they've made nobody happy," Baillie said. "They say they're in favour of fair and open collective bargaining, but then they make backroom deals that screw it up.

"That's why we're at this sorry place today."