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Alberta takes steps to prevent paramedics strike

EDMONTON -- Alberta government declared a public emergency Tuesday to head off a strike over wages by about 400 Calgary paramedics.

Employment Minister Iris Evans said the move prevents a strike or lockout while a tribunal works on a binding settlement for a dispute that has focused on wages.

"The government is loath to get involved in the collective bargaining process until it appears that it's beyond resolution," Evans said after cabinet declared the public emergency.

"In fact, even with the declaration of a public emergency, both parties could still get together and say, "All right, enough. We'll sign off on this."

The government will also consider this fall whether to remove the right to strike for paramedics by deeming them to be an essential service, Evans added

Alberta already has legislation that removes the right to strike for other health workers, including nurses, as well as police officers and firefighters. Now it's time to consider the same treatment for some of the province's ambulance workers and paramedics, she said.

"The mayor (of Calgary) has asked for that, for paramedic service to be declared an essential service," she said. "We are looking at the options available for doing something like that."

The union confirmed Tuesday that it is seeking a 30 per cent wage increase over three years for its members. The City of Calgary has offered 12 per cent over the same period.

The government has been signalling for weeks that it intended to block any strike action with measures that would impose an arbitrated settled.

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