Three months ago, a Victoria paramedic began a grass-roots petition to try and get BC’s 4,000 paramedics and dispatchers to be classified as an essential service.

Local paramedics collect signatures, looking to be classified as an essential service | Kyle Balzer, My Nechako Valley Now

The bid officially fell short of the Recall and Initiative Act threshold on Wednesday as the service was unable to obtain 10% of voter signatures from each of the province’s 85 ridings.

Ambulance Services of BC President Bronwyn Barter says paramedics are frustrated by this result.

“We don’t do traditional negotiations with wages and benefits, and this bargaining unit is something that we have been seeking so we could do the different bargaining that we do, with regards to resources, response time, and creating solutions around the needs of the public.”

Despite collecting more than 215,000 signatures, Barter is grateful to see some support from local residents.

However, she also believes the public doesn’t fully understand the issues her colleagues face with the provincial government and off the job.

“This is where we go to the table and work with the government. We work on resources in their community, response times in their community, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re not doing just the traditional bargaining of wages and benefits.”

BC Paramedics will remain under the Health Authorities Act and Barter adds no strike is being planned like the service attempted in 2009.

She says it’s important to fight for the proper treatment of first responders and to seek approval for the same rights as firefighters and police.

“That’s one big thing that can make a difference for paramedics. Responses and resources for patients and the public, as well as paramedics; that’s something we’re going to continue to pursue.”

Barter says they’re only “recognized” as essential, but not having the ability to solidify their needs for improvement is a big issue.