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Calgary EMS - Strike notice served

Paramedics could walk away from their ambulances Thursday, but the province's industry minister says a strike will likely be headed off by the appointment of a special panel to resolve the dispute.

Dozens of EMS workers, backed by other unions, had pickets at city hall yesterday just before union boss Bruce Robb officially delivered 72 hours strike notice to the city, setting the stage for a labour showdown that has forced the province to intercede.

The notice would allow paramedics to walk off the job at 1 p.m. Thursday, but Iris Evans said she expects her cabinet colleagues will back her request to declare a public emergency and appoint a tribunal to force both sides to hammer out a deal.

"We can't compromise that service and I'm sure by the time I take it to cabinet, they'll be on board," she said.

"Depriving citizens of this service compromises health and safety."

Calgary's 425 paramedics have been at loggerheads with the city over wages, seeking a 30% raise over three years while being offered 12% over the same period.

Robb, president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3421, said he expects the province will step in, but there was no choice but to take the dispute to the brink to find some common ground for their concerns.

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