VANCOUVER— Bargaining between E-Comm 9-1-1 and the Emergency Dispatchers of BC has reached impasse. Mediated talks broke down today, with the employer unwilling to address key union concerns around low wages, cost of living, overtime, missed breaks, poor working conditions, burnout, and high attrition, says CUPE Local 873-02, the union representing 9-1-1 operators and support staff in B.C.
“It became apparent during bargaining that E-Comm is desperately underfunded. For an organization that provides such a critical public service, it clearly lacks the funding and resources to deliver the service,” says CUPE 873-02 Unit Chair Matthew Bordewick.
“Chronic underfunding by E-Comm has led to unacceptable wait times for both emergency and non-emergency calls. As a result, E-Comm has been consistently unable to meet its targets for calls answered and times to dispatch.”
Bordewick says the union and the employer will now shift their focus to addressing essential service levels. The union will not be considering job action until those levels have been established by the Labour Board.
“We will continue to provide the excellent public service we have always delivered, but we will also be mobilizing our members to draw attention to the lack of funding to this organization and the impact it has on the lives and mental health of our members,” adds Bordewick.
“E-Comm employees have a role to play in helping this employer address the structural challenges at E-Comm. We’re part of the solution, but our members also deserve a fair contract.”
The Emergency Dispatchers of BC (CUPE 873-02), representing more than five hundred 9-1-1 dispatchers, call takers and support staff in the province, have launched a hard-hitting new video that reveals the challenging conditions these dedicated workers face every day while calling for public support to strengthen the critical service they provide.
In the video, emergency dispatchers discuss the importance of their work and the privilege of providing assistance to people in crisis, sometimes on the worst day of the caller’s life. They also describe recent challenges such as the ongoing staffing shortages that have led to delayed response times for both emergency a
nd non-emergency calls.
Bargaining talks between CUPE 873-02 and E-Comm 9-1-1 are currently in mediation. The union is seeking better wages and working conditions to better support the important work of 9-1-1 operators in B.C.
For more information, visit weare911bc.ca.
RICHMOND—The BC Labour Relations Board has appointed mediator Trevor Sones to mediate contract talks between E-Comm Emergency Communications for British Columbia and CUPE Local 873-02 (Emergency Dispatchers of BC), which represents more than 500 emergency dispatchers, call takers and support staff in the province.
The last three-year agreement expired on December 31, 2018. The parties have held 13 bargaining sessions since mid-March, with little progress made on substantive issues, including wages and working conditions.
The first mediated talks will occur on September 27 at the LRB office.
CUPE 873-02 members are the first point of contact for most of B.C., daily receiving about 4,100 emergency calls. In recent years, their service has expanded from a select number of police and fire agencies in the Metro and Vancouver area to becoming the first point of contact province-wide for 9-1-1 callers in 25 regional districts, 40 fire departments, 33 police agencies and 99 per cent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 call volumes.
Support 9-1-1 Operators at https://weare911bc.ca/
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9-1-1 Operators say, “We are more than just a number”.
RICHMOND—B.C.’s 9-1-1 call takers and dispatchers play a critical role in emergency response for communities throughout the province, but they remain invisible to the public — a situation the Emergency Dispatchers of B.C. (EDBC) CUPE Local 873-02 hopes to change this week with a new awareness campaign.
With its main message, “9-1-1 Operators—We’re more than just a number,” the union is shining a light on the “first, first responders” who respond to emergency calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 99 per cent of the province. And the upcoming weeks are some of the busiest of the year with a number of seasonal events taking place throughout the province. One of these being Vancouver’s Celebration of Light, the annual fireworks show which attracts approximately 300,000 to 400,000 people to English Bay and surrounding areas, resulting in an increase in calls.
According to EDBC Union Chairperson Matthew Bordewick, members take the initial 9-1-1 emergency calls for 25 regional districts from the Peace River District to Southern Vancouver Island. We dispatch 40 fire departments and 33 police agencies, he says, and this system, which employs more than 400 9-1-1 operators and 80 support workers, is being stretched to the limit.
“We know our work is important — we help save lives every day. But we’re experiencing a much higher volume of calls, many involving traumatic events, and that has resulted in more burnout, exhaustion and the mental and physical health issues that come with it,” he says. “Those of us who remain truly love our jobs. But we need more of us in the service.”
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CUPE 873-02 dispatchers are the lifeline for people in distress and the nerve centre for emergency response in B.C.—facts to be highlighted during Emergency Service Dispatchers and 9-1-1 Awareness Week (April 7-13, 2019).
The more than 500 emergency dispatchers, call takers and support staff in B.C. who work for E-Comm 9-1-1 are members of CUPE 873-02. Every day, they work behind the scenes to ensure that people in distress get the help they need and that communities, families and fellow first responders are kept safe.
“Emergency dispatchers and call takers are often referred to as the ‘first first responders,’” says CUPE 873-02 Unit Chair Matthew Bordewick.
“We are the omnipresent, faceless voices on the radio to police and firefighters on the road, as well as the calm voice on the other end of the phone when someone calls 9-1-1.”
CUPE 873-02 (Emergency Dispatchers of BC) members are the first point of contact for most of the province, daily receiving about 4,100 emergency calls. In recent years, their service has expanded from a select number of police and fire agencies in the Metro and Vancouver area to becoming the first point of contact province-wide for 9-1-1 callers in 25 regional districts, 40 fire departments, 29 police agencies and 99 per cent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 call volumes.
Bordewick describes emergency call takers and dispatchers as a calming influence for 9-1-1 callers in distress, often a lifeline for people calling on the worst day of their life.
“In a way we’re the invisible responders, because people only hear us but never see us. And we’re always there. Our members have your back 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.”
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