A member of the Mayor’s inner circle is raising concerns about handing over ambulance services to the province.
Winnipeg city administrators are examining the possibility of transferring ambulance service to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, under the direction of the Executive Policy Committee.
It comes on the heels of a decision by the WRHA to effectively freeze funding at 2016 levels, leaving the city on the hook for millions of dollars to make up the shortfall.
But one city councilor and EPC member says transferring ambulance service isn't as simple as just turning over a set of keys.
"We could be looking at 350 people out of jobs," said St Vital councillor Brian Mayes. "And all sorts of issues with notice, and severance and pensions."
Mayes says when you sell a unionized shop, the new owner takes over the employee contracts, and as Winnipeg is in essence a subcontractor of the service, he isn't certain if that would be the case for paramedics.
"On the surface you'd just say, ah they're just going to get hired. Ah, it will all be the same. But legally no, I don't think that's the case."
Mayes hopes every paramedic would be offered work, but he doesn't know for a fact that they would. The paramedics union doesn't either, although it believes they would likely move over to the new employer.
"We're looking at the collective agreement that's in place now," said Michelle Gawronsky, president of the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union. "We do have our lawyers looking into it to see where it would be left."
Scott Gillingham, the city's finance chair, says he appreciates the work paramedics do. He's asked administrators to examine what would happen to them, and the city, should ambulance services be transferred to the WRHA.
"We are asking the administration to come back with a comprehensive plan that would measure and give an indication of what the implications would be, and how the transition would look."
Premier Brian Pallister suggests there are better solutions to the impasse than moving ambulance service to the health authority.
"We need to look for better alternatives than threatening to cut services when we don't get the maximum amount of money that we all want."
The city’s administrative report is scheduled to be complete in February.
With files from Jeff Keele