Sault Ste. Marie paramedics reject arbitration and urge District to come back to the table

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Sault Ste. Marie – Paramedics represented by Unifor Local 1359 are rejecting arbitration and urging the District of Sault Ste. Marie Social Services Administration Board (DSSMSSAB) to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a fair deal.

"Our members are frustrated by the district’s demand for arbitration rather than meeting to negotiate a fair deal,” said Unifor National President Lana Payne. “These paramedics are the first on the scene of accidents and are a pillar in the Sault Ste. Marie community. Taking away their bargaining power is disrespectful and is a disservice to the essential role they play."

The contract between Unifor and DSSMSSAB expired in April of 2023. The union has been in negotiations with the employer since January 16, 2024. Despite these efforts, the District has consistently failed to address the workers’ wage concerns and has instead walked away from direct negotiations while continuing to push for arbitration. The union's requests are in line with industry standards and are essential for maintaining fair compensation and working conditions for the paramedics. In a recent vote, 100% of paramedic members voted 98.9% in favour of strike action should a deal not be reached.

"Our members are united in their resolve and continue to urge the DSSMSSAB to engage in meaningful dialogue to reach a fair settlement,” said Unifor Local 1359 Vice President Mary Casola. “The DSSMSSAB owes our members the respect and common decency to negotiate an agreement at the bargaining table and not push off responsibility to an arbitrator.” 

In addition to these issues, the union intends to file a grievance over the employer’s use of a related service of the bargaining unit. 

“We are asking members of the community to speak to their DSSMSSAB Board of Directors representative and demand a return to the bargaining table and to show paramedics the respect they deserve,” said President of Unifor Local 1359, Cathy Humalamaki. “This labour negotiation affects all of us in the Soo and we must stand together to ensure fair treatment for those who respond in times of emergency.”

Unifor Local 1359 represents 89 paramedics in Sault Ste. Marie and remains committed to reaching a fair agreement that recognises the critical role of paramedics in the community.

Unifor represents more than 30,000 health care workers, including members in hospitals, long-term care, emergency services, and community and social services and is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 320,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at @email or 647-448-2823 (cell).