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HALIFAX – The province will introduce a bill today, July 5,that will keep paramedics on the job in the event of a strike.
The act will send a dispute between Emergency Medical Care Inc. and Nova Scotia paramedics (International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 727) to binding arbitration, final offer selection, to ensure a fair solution for all parties.
Paramedics would have been in a strike position at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.
"The health and safety of Nova Scotians is our number one priority," said Labour and Advanced Education Minister Frank Corbett. "Nova Scotians need to know that paramedics will be there to help in an emergency.
"We also believe that paramedics in Nova Scotia deserve a fair wage. Binding arbitration can achieve that."
The IUOE contract expired in March 2011. The two sides have been negotiating since September 2011. A tentative agreement reached in January, with a conciliator, was rejected, as was a second tentative agreement, reached in April. In June, a tentative agreement with a defined-contribution pension plan was also rejected.
"This government supports the principles of collective bargaining. Unfortunately, that process has failed here. There is no prospect of a deal," said Corbett. "This is a highly unusual situation, but we have to protect the health and safety of Nova Scotians."
Unlike other health-care unions, IUOE has refused to provide a minimal level of services, which is common practice.
"Government cannot stand by while patients are put at risk with the loss of emergency services like Lifeflight, and ambulances," said Corbett.
Under final-offer selection binding arbitration, the arbitrator will request a final offer from each party, and hear their arguments and evidence. The arbitrator will then select one of the offers.
The arbitrator will make a decision within 90 days of his or her appointment.