Provincial Government Prepares to Defend Paramedics Against CUPE.
On January 22, 2020, New Brunswick Paramedics were notified that their bargaining Agent, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), had filed an application to the Labour & Employment Board in an attempt to prevent them from receiving an updated “Medical Science Professionals” classification.
Paramedics are watching closely as CUPE continues to press forward with their challenge. This, against the express wishes of Paramedics across the province who sincerely wish to move forward with reclassification.
[Photo] Paramedics pose for a photo outside the New Brunswick Legislature in December, after being classified as Medical Science Professionals.
In their complaint to the Labour and Employment Board, CUPE stated that, "by reason of their duties, responsibilities and reporting structure, [Paramedics] share a more intimate community of interest with the members of Local 1252's bargaining unit." The application also alleges that “the duties and responsibilities of [Paramedics] have not changed in a material way”.
This challenge by CUPE assumes the myriad of advancements within the Paramedic profession since 1972 do not warrant a “Medical Science Professionals” classification, which is insulting to Paramedics. CUPE must convince the Board that Paramedics are better served bargaining alongside hairstylists, cleaning staff, and maintenance personnel, who fill vital, but different roles.
New Brunswick Paramedic Reclassification Committee chairperson, Joel Mattatall, says,
“Either CUPE is completely oblivious as to what our Paramedics face and do every day, or they are aware but are using this challenge to delay the inevitable. In either case, their actions are utterly disappointing."
CUPE also claims that classifying Paramedics as “Medical Science Professionals” will "split up individuals working for ANB into two separate bargaining units represented by two different bargaining agents”. They say, “such fragmentation is not appropriate, makes no labour relations sense and would result in serious labour relation problems." However, a number of other individuals working within the ANB / EMP organization belong to different bargaining units and agents. Paramedics currently work alongside Critical Care Flight Nurses, represented by the New Brunswick Nurses Union, and Dieticians, Physiotherapists, and Respiratory Therapists, represented by the New Brunswick Union.
Classifying Paramedics as medical professionals will move them away from their colleagues in the provincial Medical Communication Management Centre (MCMC) and place them next to individuals such as Respiratory Therapists and Anesthesiology Assistants, who bargain under the New Brunswick Union. “A much more appropriate fit”, says Mattatall.
"We find CUPE’s argument that this will ‘split up individuals’ peculiar, as they are seemingly forecasting some sort of catastrophic event should Paramedics no longer bargain alongside Dispatchers. These dedicated folks provide an incredible service to the people of New Brunswick. Notwithstanding, CUPE is suggesting that Paramedics are more appropriately served by that bargaining relationship than by bargaining alongside individuals who provide direct patient care."
After analyzing the profession, the Government of New Brunswick determined that Paramedics should be reclassified as “Medical Science Professionals”. Government will be defending Paramedics against CUPE in a hearing that is expected to be held in April. This hearing is open to the public and will entertain arguments from both sides.
Paramedics are confident the Board will side with the conclusion of the analysis and finally award Paramedics the classification they deserve. Paramedics remain united in asking CUPE to #StandDown and respect the evolution of their profession.
Paramedics are united in asking CUPE to #StandDown and respect the evolution of their profession.
The Board is expected to hear arguments on the reclassification of Paramedics, sometime in April.