October 2023 Member Update

Executive Board Update

October 2023 Member Update

Dear Members,

Thank you to everyone who continues to keep us informed about what is happening across all workgroups. Here is an update on what’s happening with our local:

Local Business

At the September 28, 2023, Annual General Meeting, Sheldon Miller was elected as Vice President, Caroline Cyr as Secretary-Treasurer, and Carrie James as Recording Secretary. The current Union Executive Board is:

President Donald Grant
Vice-President Sheldon Miller
Secretary-Treasurer Caroline Cyr
Recording Secretary Carrie James
Health and Safety Coordinator Margaret Pereira

At the meeting, we discussed in detail the current state of the union and the initiatives that are underway to advance the interests of our members. We continue to take a multipronged approach to addressing the key issues our members face. Different parts of our initiatives move at different speeds, some faster than others. Our focus right now is on:

  • the implementation of the new contract
  • drafting of the new collective agreement
  • grievances, accommodations, and health and safety concerns
  • government relations and funding
  • addressing the ongoing staffing problems plaguing E-Comm.

We are also in touch with other emergency communications centres in the region. Across the province and country, emergency communications centres are plagued by similar problems to those we are faced with.

Current 9-1-1 Wait Time Crisis:

Staffing pressures continue to grow. The first signs of serious trouble appeared in July when members suddenly started receiving notifications that their auxiliary and overtime shifts were cancelled. At the same time, forced overtime shifts were being issued on the island, missed breaks were increasing in frequency, and fewer overtime shifts were being booked. This left our emergency communications centres in dire straits during the early morning and late-night hours.

Adding to the staffing pressure, we are now answering and dispatching more calls than ever. From January to July of 2023, the number of 9-1-1 calls was more than 20 percent higher than the same period in 2022. With the addition of the non-emergency team, we are also answering more non-emergency calls.

Short staffing means that callers are sometimes waiting for long periods to be connected with an emergency call taker. The red lighting means that our members are going for long periods without the ability to go to the bathroom, and we are all faced with constant anxiety that there won’t be enough staff on shift to properly respond to the very real emergencies that we are responsible for. Waiting for extended periods to go to the bathroom and working without breaks is unacceptable. It is not conducive to mental and physical health.

We have made some progress at increasing overtime and auxiliary booking for some operations workgroups, but the closing of select info and dispatch channels remains extremely problematic for our members.

Overall, the service related and work environment challenges that we face are rooted in a staffing shortage that is unsustainable. Our message to the employer continues to be that all their resources must be dedicated to the recruitment and retention of an adequate number of staff to meet operational demands.

What’s next?

The new executive is working on our 2024 budget and strategic plan. In the next few weeks, we will announce the date and time of our next general meeting, where we are looking forward to sharing more information about the initiatives that were discussed at the September meeting. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to follow up with the union at executive@ecpbc.ca if you are waiting for a response or if you need assistance, as we are still dealing with a high volume of issues that need to be addressed by management.

In solidarity,

Donald Grant