United Counties seek to avoid binding arbitration on EMS

Nick Seebruch
United Counties seek to avoid binding arbitration on EMS
A Cornwall Paramedic ambulance (Ali Geary/ TC Media).

UNITED COUNTIES of SD&G, Ontario – At their September meeting, the United Counties Council of SD&G rejected a petition to declare EMS an essential service.

Their reasoning behind the rejection being that by doing so, the United Counties would change the existing collective bargaining system that they have with the paramedic service.

Tim Simpson, CAO for the United Counties said that if EMS was made an essential service, then that would make binding arbitration more likely. Simpson pointed out that the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) feel that binding arbitration is rarely favourable to municipalities.

“If a service is deemed essential, then parties go to binding arbitration,” Simpson said. “Groups like AMO have been saying for many years it is skewed against municipalities. Arbitrators don’t take into account a municipality’s ability to pay.”

The Township of South Glengarry put forward the petition to have EMS recognized as an essential service at their meeting on Sept. 4.

That motion stemmed from this year’s municipal strike in the City of Cornwall. While paramedics are City of Cornwall employees, they are a shared service with the United Counties of SD&G with the City paying 40 percent of their cost and the United Counties paying the other 60 percent.

During the strike, there were only three ambulances on the road covering Cornwall and SD&G instead of the usual nine.

“We deemed it should be an essential service,” said Frank Prevost, Deputy Mayor and Mayor-elect of South Glengarry. “You are dealing with somebody’s life.”

Prevost explained that he was not at the United Counties meeting to hear the reasons for the opposition to his township’s petition but said that he believed that the petition was something that should be looked at.

“While these strikes reduce service levels, these impacts are mitigated via the approval of a level of service agreement between the employer and union, which ensures a minimum level of service during the labour disruption,” reads a report prepared by Counties administration for Council. “Furthermore, during a strike, local resources are augmented by the use of non-unionized management staff and resources from neighbouring municipalities, as mandated by the Province.”

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