A move by B.C. Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) to discontinue a job sharing agreement for 36 paramedics and dispatchers could lead to further burnout, according to CUPE 873 spokesperson Jessica Chilton.
Chilton said that the job-share program has been available since at least 2005 and allows paramedics and dispatchers to share one job.
“In four on, four off situation what we typically see is one person would work two shifts and the other person would work the other two shifts,” Chilton told Black Press Media by phone Wednesday (March 10).
“It seems like a small number [of people] to impact but the decision has been motivated – from what we’ve been told – due to administrative purposes and systematic requirements.”
Chilton said that while staff who take part in the job-share program may work part-time hours, they would lose benefits if they moved to true part-time work.
“They would have to change their employment status and then the ramifications of that are that it could impede their ability to bid on future position, it can affect their vacation, their holidays, their pension,” she said. “It comes with sacrifices.”
Paramedics and dispatchers who choose to move to full-time work could be making other trade-offs, Chilton said, including family time and their mental health.
“From the members who have contacted us so far… the majority affected are women, and the overwhelming majority of them are working mothers that are using these job-shares to attempt to balance the demands of their career with the needs of their families.”
Paramedics and dispatchers often work shifts that don’t work well with existing child care that is designed for a standard 9-5 work day.
“It makes it very very challenging for them to find appropriate care under those circumstances,” Chilton said, regardless if they are working moms or dads.
Many paramedics and dispatchers also began job share to help with their mental health, she added.
“Essentially, using the job-share as a form of self accommodation so they can balance their mental health needs… and their career and provide the best care possible to their patients.”
Chilton said that cancelling job-share at this moment has only increased that burden, particularly during a now year-long pandemic and an overdose crisis that shows no signs of ending.
“At this point there’s no resolution or agreement that’s been put forward that works within the confines of our collective agreement,” she said. “We haven’t engaged in in-depth conversation. We’re hoping to have this resolved by April 1. We’re hoping to rectify this before [the members] have to make these very difficult decisions for themselves and their families.”
In an email, BCEHS spokesperson Sarah Morris said that the organization is “committed to continuing to offer our employees job-sharing arrangements.”
Morris said that while the existing job-share agreements would be terminated by April 1, “we fully intend to offer the 36 affected employees new agreements.”
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