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Arbitrated settlement nets big gains for B.C. 9-1-1 operators

Smiling woman wearing a telephone headsetAfter months of intermittent bargaining that ended up going to interest arbitration last fall, B.C.’s emergency dispatchers have a new four-year collective agreement with E-Comm. The deal improves staffing and working conditions while building a solid foundation to help 9-1-1 operators become fully recognized members of B.C.’s first responder community, say the Emergency Dispatchers of BC, members of CUPE 873-02.

In the settlement released this week, Arbitrator Vince Ready awarded general annual wage increases of 2, 2.5, and 3 per cent, plus 1.5 per cent in both 2021 and 2022 for 9-1-1 dispatchers and call takers, along with increases for excessive overtime and night-shift differential. The new contract also includes more flexibility on short-term leaves, better between-shift rest periods for support workers and IT, and new language incorporating meal breaks for casual staff. In response to ongoing staffing challenges, the settlement also includes the creation of a new staffing committee.

“This award is a much-anticipated and welcome conclusion to the process,” said Unit Chair Matthew Bordewick. “We’ve faced many challenges over the years around staffing, excessive overtime, and working conditions, so it’s our hope that this contract and these wage increases will go a long way to address those issues.”

Bordewick thanked CUPE 873-02 members for their patience, the local bargaining committee and CUPE National staff for their hard work, and Arbitrator Ready for his fairness and deliberations in reaching the settlement. “There is still work to be done,” he said. “We want E-Comm to be one of the best places to work in B.C., so we look forward to working with the company and with municipalities to find solutions for improving the long-term sustainability of this critical service.”

CUPE 873-02 has over 500 members in B.C., including more than 80 support staff. Their call takers and dispatchers, who daily receive about 4,100 emergency calls, are the first point of contact for 9-1-1 callers covering 25 regional districts, 40 fire departments, 33 police agencies and 99 per cent of B.C.’s 9-1-1 call volumes. For more information about emergency dispatchers, visit www.911bc.com.

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