This year on May 1st, First Responders Day, we recognize the workers who have been battling on the front lines of a global crisis for over a year now.
On this day, one year ago, we were calling on the government to make sure that the paramedics and ambulance communications officers on the front lines were properly equipped to take on the rapidly spreading coronavirus. We did not think that one year later we would be in the third wave of the pandemic, facing even higher infection rates than we’ve faced before.
It cannot be overstated, the debt of gratitude that the people of Ontario have for the hard work and sacrifices that you have made over this past year. But the Ontario government has not shown that they understand the sacrifices you have made and the work that you have put in to protecting the people of Ontario, as their half-measures and inconsistent regulations have allowed this pandemic to drag on for over a year. In that time paramedics and ambulance communications officers have contracted COVID-19, faced longer working hours and higher levels of stress.
To bring this pandemic to an end we need to ensure that all frontline workers can get vaccinated as soon as possible, and that any frontline workers who have COVID-19 symptoms are not forced to choose between going in to work or missing a pay cheque in order to isolate. Like many frontline workers in Ontario there are paramedic service workers who do not have access to paid sick days. We echo the calls coming from across the province to implement paid sick days for all workers in the province and paid time for workers to receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
Over a year into the pandemic paramedics and ambulance communications officers who contract COVID-19 are still being challenged when they make WSIB claims. We renew our call for the government to presume that all COVID-19 cases for frontline workers are presumed to be contracted on the job and allow frontline workers to access the WSIB coverage that they deserve.
Paramedic services across Ontario, that were understaffed even before the pandemic, are often operating with few or no available ambulances to take the next call. Paramedic services should not have to rely on their equally underfunded neighbours to step in to provide support when there aren’t enough ambulances on the road.
CUPE Ontario and the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario (CACO) extends our gratitude to the 5,500 paramedics and ambulance communications officers who respond to calls and often risk their own health and safety at work. We also renew our demand that the Ontario government reverse the underfunding that has stretched resources and impacted the services Ontarians rely on even before this crisis. Don’t let this government take your hard work for granted.
Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario
Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario