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Big step back for ambulance company

Christina Proctor

Take one big step back. That’s where paramedics said the negotiation process with Lake Tahoe Ambulance Company was headed Thursday.

Brent Harland, field representative for Health Care Workers Local 250, SEIU, said employees are fed up with contract proposals from LTA management that they feel are pure retaliation against their decision to unionize in March. Frustration and lack of movement from management were cited as reasons Thursday for directing Harland to contact a federal mediator.

Chuck Staib, LTA’s chief executive officer, said negotiations came to an end Thursday because the union bargaining unit refused to talk.

“We came to the table ready to bargain in good faith,” Staib said. “They called an end to the negotiations.”

The two groups met for almost eight hours Wednesday making no headway on wage and benefit packages. Thursday’s meeting was short lived with the two sides talking for less and an half an hour before Harland announced the move to call in federal mediation.

“Management made a proposal to allow supervisors to work full-time on the rigs,” Harland said. “Management was instructed by the National Labor Relations Board in October that they could not replace full-time people with supervisors. These proposals are nothing but retaliation for the workers’ decision to go union.”

Staib said they did discuss that proposal and it was offered as a bargaining item. But, he also said that a job offer had already been extended for that full-time position, and the point might soon be moot.

“Management is proposing regressive working conditions,” Harland said. “The union is holding strong to its proposals. We feel they are more than fair and they strive to find a middle ground.”

Harland said the employees are asking for a 5-percent raise both years of the contract. Management’s last proposal was for 2- and 3-percent increases.

“It is still less than what the employer has been enjoying from the county in cost-of-living increases for the last five years,” Harland said of the union’s proposal.

Staib denied the accusation that management is retaliating or reducing benefits already offered the employees.

“Every step we’ve made in the negotiation process has been toward the employees’ proposals,” Staib said. “We have offered more vacation days and a fair and equitable wage schedule increase.”

Federal mediation is the next step in the labor negotiation process, but it may take a month or more for a mediator to meet with the two sides.

The paramedics couldn’t legally strike until after a federal mediator attempted to resolve the contract, and after the union gave 10 days’ notice of its intention to strike.

“We stand ready to bargain,” Staib said. “But if the union feels bringing in a mediator at this time will facilitate the process, then we’re all for it.”

Harland said the union will continue to perform job actions, or informational picket lines and striking is no longer such a long shot.

“At this point in time it is very possible that they will strike,” Harland said.

The majority of the language items dealing with working conditions and employee polices have been tentatively agreed upon.


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