House of Assembly to hold emergency debate Monday on private ambulance strike

Premier Andrew Furey has asked for the House of Assembly to reconvene Monday to hold an emergency debate on the private ambulance strike affecting rural Newfoundland communities.

The House will debate the Essential Ambulance Services Act. If passed, the act will make private ambulance services essential. Striking members of Teamsters Local 855 would have to return to work until an essential services agreement is in place, at which point the labour action could resume.

More than 100 private ambulance workers in rural Newfoundland communities escalated their strike by walking off the job Friday. Teamsters Local 855 leader Hubert Dawe says it came after a hostile act by an employer against a union member. The companies owned by Bob Fewer cover areas from Fogo Island on the northeast coast to Trepassey on the southern shore of the Avalon to Stephenville on the west coast.

The Speaker’s Office says the House will reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday.

The legislation has not been made public yet, but the provincial government provided background information in a news release:

The Essential Ambulance Services Act

The Essential Ambulance Services Act will allow the employer and employees to determine the terms of the essential ambulance services agreement, and will allow them to engage with the Labour Relations Board when necessary ⁠— including authorizing the Board to refer a matter to binding arbitration to protect the employees’ meaningful right to a strike and the employers’ meaningful right to a lockout. When passed, the Act will require the union members to return to work until an essential services agreement is established, at which point labour action may resume. 

To date, only ambulance services provided publicly, through the Regional Health Authorities, fall under such legislation. Paramedics employed by private ambulance service operators fall under the Labour Relations Act and have thus far not been deemed essential. 

About the Author
Michael Connors is the co-anchor of the NTV Evening Newshour and assistant news director. He started his career at The Telegram and joined the NTV News team in 2003 as a general assignment reporter. In 2005, Michael was assigned to the press gallery in the House of Assembly and spent 16 years as NTV’s legislative reporter. He served for six years as president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Press Gallery Association. Michael was promoted to the anchor desk in 2022. He also hosts NTV’s weekly public affairs show, Issues & Answers. Michael has degrees in history from Memorial University of Newfoundland and journalism from Carleton University in Ottawa. He was born St. John’s, where he lives with his wife, Amanda, and their children, Andrew and Dianna.
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