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Sault paramedics bring pickets to BBQ to protest stalled contract talks

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Paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie showed their displeasure with a lack of contract negotiations Friday.

Dozens of EMS staff attended a social services barbecue they were invited to brandishing picket signs.

The barbecue that saw nearly all social services staff given the day off work was met with frustration from paramedics.

While EMS staff were invited to attend, on-duty paramedics were the only employees not given the day off, something that union officials said further insulted a workforce that has been without a contract for more than a year.

“If the essential services are unessential, then why (don't) paramedics just step away from our job to enjoy a fun day?” said Mary Casola of Unifor Local 1359

“The reason we use this to show what we're going through is because DSSAB is constantly saying that they have no money and they need to go to arbitration,” added 10-year paramedic Hannah Fairburn.

The union is refusing arbitration, aiming to settle the contract dispute through negotiations.

As for the ‘non-essential’ designation, which hurts paramedics in those negotiations, it isn’t up to the social services board to change, but employees say support would go far.

With the way negotiations have gone, support is not what employee said they are feeling.

“People are burnt out,” Fairburn said.

“People don't want to come in for overtime. People don't want to come in last minute. So they're not getting those people coming in. They're not getting people working extra shifts because we don't feel valued. We don't feel respected.”

A strike is the planned course of action if the two sides aren't able to come to an agreement, but the union must wait for the Ministry of Labour to approve an application that outlines where paramedics can reduce services.

“There's a possibility there's a lot of services that will be decreased because of the essential service agreement, including the community paramedicine program that was initiated and funded by a lot of thousand dollars that the government has given this employer to run that program,” Casola said.

The union reached out to the DSSAB after its pickets earlier in the week, seeking further negotiations. They were told that the employer would wait until after the “essential service agreement” to meet again.

Social service officials at the barbecue declined an opportunity to speak on camera. 

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