Vancouver, BC – Temporary compensation and psychological supports for employees must be extended and ultimately become permanent to help ensure stability in the embattled emergency response system, says the union representing E-Comm’s 9-1-1 dispatch operators.
Over the last few months, shift differential, overtime and psychological support program enhancements were established for a short period of time to stem the exodus of front-line staff at E-Comm who were encountering ongoing forced overtime and associated stress and anxiety – putting enormous pressure on the system. Unfortunately, some of those support measures are scheduled to expire September 21.
“These provisions have made a difference over the past few months,” says CUPE 8911 President Donald Grant. “I can’t imagine how much worse the situation would have been without them. Forced overtime is not the solution to a systemic problem. We need real and permanent solutions to make emergency communications a viable career and not a place where employees come and burn out. Serious mental health issues are causing people to leave this organization in droves, and we can’t continue to allow this to happen.”
The issue of 9-1-1 gridlock and its impact on dispatch operators is not subsiding. The prospect of forced overtime is anticipated on each day leading through the Labour Day Weekend. The union reports that between July 1st and September 5, staff have entered nine of ten weekends facing the possibility of forced overtime. Furthermore, between June 1st and August 4th, there were more than 900 short notice vacancy overtime messages sent to members.
For the past year, the union has sounded the alarm about dire situation of managing an emergency response system. Staffing levels at E-Comm — a multi-municipality agency that provide 99% of the initial 9-1-1 call answer for the province and answer, triage, dispatch, and update the calls in order of priority for 33 police agencies and 40 fire departments in BC —are well below those required to meet anticipated demand. This forces dispatchers to work well beyond their normal four-day, 12-hour shift schedule, which is simply unsustainable.
About Emergency Communications Professionals of British Columbia:
EPBC represents more than five hundred 9-1-1 operators, call takers, dispatchers, IT, and support professionals employed by E-Comm Emergency Communications for BC Inc. With worksites in Vancouver, Burnaby, and Saanich, EPBC’s members provide 99% of the initial 9-1-1 call answer for the province and answer, triage, dispatch, and update the calls in order of priority for 33 police agencies and 40 fire departments in B.C.