Union wants paramedics out of Winnipeg firehalls, alleging hostile work environment
An ambulance is shown in a file photo. (CP24)
WINNIPEG -- The union representing paramedics says it wants them moved out of Winnipeg fire halls because of a “hostile” and “intimidating” workplace within the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.
MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky sent a letter to Mayor Brian Bowman alleging paramedics are subjected to threats from firefighters in the aftermath of a controversial incident last year.
A third-party report concluded two firefighters refused to help a paramedic at a scene last October because of personal issues with the paramedic.
It also said this resulted in a two-minute delay in care and that there was implicit bias against the patient because she was indigenous.
Gawronsky said a memo this week from the United Fire Fighters of Winnipeg has inflamed the situation in fire halls.
The UFFW memo said four firefighters, put on leave over the October incident, were heading back to work.
The memo also said the “issue” was not finished and that the union will ensure “justice” for its members.
“Following the release of this memo, tensions within fire halls grew immediately,” writes Gawronsky. “Paramedics have come forward to our union expressing serious concerns about potential reprisals and intimidation from some firefighters.”
Gawronsky goes on to say some paramedics are anxious about entering the halls and that three have resigned.
“We are urgently requesting that the City take immediate steps to move paramedics out of fire halls now,” writes Gawronsky.
In a statement, the UFFW says it would support a plan to move ambulance-based paramedics from the fire stations.
“It would be the best for the Firefighters, Ambulance staff and the City of Winnipeg,” the statement from the UFFW reads.
The city released the following statement in response to the MGEU letter:
“The Interim CAO Mike Ruta was forwarded Ms. Gawronsky’s letter from the Mayor earlier today. He looks forward to having a conversation with Ms. Gawronsky to discuss her concerns, and find ways to repair the relationship between the two unions.”
In a statement to CTV News, the office of Mayor Brian Bowman said Gawronsky didn't mention the letter that the mayor had sent to her earlier on Friday.
It said, "Just last week, I was happy to facilitate a meeting with you, Alex Forrest, Chris Rollwagen and Chief Lane. As you will recall, you committed to working toward great dialogue between your union and the other at the meeting."
"Given that the ambulance service is owned by the Province of Manitoba and contracted to the City, and the fact we are in year five without a contract, this would be best addressed by the provincial Minister of Health who has yet to publicly share the provincial government's plans for ambulance services in the City of Winnipeg," the mayor's office said.