AMHERST – It’s about money and it’s about the pension, yes. But a protest in Amherst Wednesday by paramedics was about more than that, according to one participant.
“It’s not all about the wage,” said Novalee Bowden.
According to the Springhill-based paramedic, it’s about recognition for what these health professionals do.
Members of IUOE Local 727 gathered on the sidewalks at the South Albion and Robert Angus Drive intersection in the morning, distributing a one-page information sheet to those who slowed down.
“We’re employees of EMC,” said Roger McAbe, the union rep.
The spokesperson claimed EMC is a private company – part of Medavie Blue Cross - with a 10-year, $1.1 billion contract to provide paramedic services to EHS (the Medavie website describes the company as a “not-for-profit health service partner”). But despite the amount of money being spent, his profession is underpaid in this province, according to McAbe.
“We’re losing paramedics all the time,” he said.
He said colleagues leave for better paying positions in other parts of Canada. The union rep said his members are looking for 5-5-5: a 15-per cent wage increase over three years.
According to members at the protest, a paramedic’s training ranges from as little as 10 months to about five years, depending on the level of qualification and the college attended. A fresh recruit in Nova Scotia makes about $20 an hour. The highest wage – more years and more training – is over $28 an hour.
“Solidarity – sticking together for a common goal,” said Bowden, when asked why she was there.
The health worker said Nova Scotia’s paramedics have one of the widest scopes of practice – the broadest mandate to act – of paramedics across Canada. She said the public perception of them as ambulance drivers is inaccurate.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” said McAbe.
The union rep said the pension plan they’ve been offered is good for younger employees but too expensive for senior members.
Bowden said they received a few negative reactions to the protest, but the reception was mostly positive.
CORRECTION: This story has been altered since it was first posted. It contained incorrect information about a pay raise received by the Springhill Police Service. According to their association, Local 203, the police received a raise of 18.5% over four years.