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Paramedics, respiratory therapists feel slighted after being left out of pandemic pay increase

Unions representing paramedics noticed the glaring omission, after it was announced on Saturday
Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services 1
File photo. Phi Doan/KitchenerToday

After Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a temporary pay increase for front line healthcare workers, the unions representing paramedics and respiratory therapists noticed their omission from the list.

The Premier made the announcement on Saturday, to recognize the hard work being done by staff working the front lines of the pandemic.

They included staff in long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions and youth justice facilities, as well as those providing home and community care and some staff in hospitals.

Luke McCann is the president of CUPE 5191 representing the Region of Waterloo paramedics and logistic support staff. He said the glaring omission of paramedics and respiratory therapists was disappointing.

"I'm not sure how much more front line you could get. From a paramedic perspective, we are the first contact in the community and in most cases -- when people call 911," he said. "Even just a thank you. You know, paramedics aren't really talking about the money. It's more about the omission and the disrespect to not be included in something like this."

According to McCann, their national CUPE counterpart -- as well as OPSEU --  are looking into the omission this coming week. He said they want to figure out if the omission was a lack of oversight or mistake. 

McCann said paramedics have been dealing with additional stress on the job, with the measures introduced to prevent infection in possible COVID-19 cases. However, he thanks their employers (Region of Waterloo Paramedic Services), for their support during the pandemic, adding that they are receiving enough PPEs to properly do their job.

The province's temporary pay increase is expected to provide an additional four dollars per hour on top of hourly wages, for the next four months. Those working more than 100 hours per month would also receive a lump sum payment of $250 per month. A person who was working 40 hours per week would be receiving $3,560 on top of their regular pay.

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