Talks break down between B.C.'s 911 operators and their employer, but no strike planned
Heather Andrews, a 911 operator, is seen in an undated image provided by E-Comm.
VANCOUVER - The union representing 911 operators across British Columbia says mediated talks broke down Friday with their employer, E-Comm, but the company says it still wants to bargain.
CUPE Local 873-02, the union representing emergency dispatchers and support staff, says E-Comm has been unwilling to address low wages, cost of living, overtime, missed breaks, poor working conditions, burnout and high attrition.
Unit Chair Matthew Bordewick says it became apparent during bargaining that E-Comm is “desperately underfunded” and clearly lacks the resources to deliver a critical public service.
E-Comm, which handles approximately 99 per cent of 911 calls in B.C., says mediator Trevor Sones has not booked out and the two sides are still in mediation at the Labour Relations Board.
Bordewick says chronic underfunding by E-Comm has led to unacceptable wait times for both emergency and non-emergency calls and as a result, E-Comm has been consistently unable to meet its targets for calls answered and times to dispatch.
He says the union and employer will now shift their focus to addressing essential service levels and the union will not consider 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 in a statement.
“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.”
E-Comm CEO Oliver Gruter-Andrew says the company wants to bargain at the negotiating table, not in public.
“We'd rather talk at the table and work together to address our staffing challenges and the many opportunities to advance public safety collaboratively,” he said in a release.
E-Comm says it is the first point of contact for 911 callers in 25 regional districts in B.C. and provides dispatch services for more than 70 police agencies and fire departments.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 1, 2019.