Union survey says Winnipeg paramedics are feeling bullied and harassed at work

WINNIPEG — A new survey commissioned by the union that represents paramedics in Winnipeg has found the workplace culture within the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service is an issue and change is needed.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) said over 100 paramedics in the city were surveyed between April 13 and 29 and the overall response found bullying and harassment is a problem in the organization.

Michelle Gawronsky, president of the MGEU, said the survey validates what the union has been saying about the WFPS.

“It is definitely a broader picture that has come out for more paramedics to ensure what we are saying is the truth and the concerns that are there are real,” said Gawronsky.

The survey found that 92 per cent of paramedics don’t think their employer has their back, while 67 per cent feel nervous and anxious going to work.

It also found that 65 per cent said they have considered leaving their job and 44 per cent think fire halls are a toxic environment.

Gawronsky said these results prove there is a problem within the WFPS and both the city and organization need to figure out a solution to make this a better work environment.

She said the problems came to a head in October 2020 when two firefighters refused to help a paramedic at a scene due to an issue.

A third-party investigation found the actions resulted in a two-minute delay and there was bias against the patient because she was Indigenous.

“Paramedics deserve to know that when they go to work, they are going to be respected, valued, and they are going to be safe in their workplace.”

The survey also found that 88 per cent of paramedics think Mayor Brian Bowman has lacked leadership and another 92 per cent think Chief John Lane has not shown leadership.

“Everyone in the city of Winnipeg can longer ignore this is going on.”

Gawronsky said this dispute is something that affects everyone in Winnipeg and it could impact those who require help from paramedics.

In an email to CTV News, a letter from Mayor Brian Bowman’s office said the mayor has been working to secure direction for the province about the future of paramedic services.

“It’s also why the Mayor facilitated a meeting in March with union leaders Michelle Gawronsky (MGEU), Alex Forrest (UFFW) and Chris Rollwagen (WFPSOA) as well as Chief Lane, to facilitate more collaborative dialogue amongst the department’s key leaders,” the email said.

The City of Winnipeg told CTV News that the interim CAO, Mike Ruta, and Chief Lane, are visiting stations to meet with all front line staff.

“These station visits are not complete, and are continuing to occur. Interim CAO Ruta and Chief Lane are developing plans for moving the service forward based on the feedback they are receiving from staff and will be communicating directly with staff going forward,” the city said in an email.

Gawronsky said now is the time for change in the WFPS, especially since Chief Lane has announced his retirement.

“This is an opportunity for the city to step up, not just put another body in the chair, but to make sure this ceases and desists now. That we all work together to ensure, racism, sexism, harassment, bullying stops,” said Gawronsky.

She added she would still like her suggestion of having separate facilities for paramedics to take effect so they can have a better place to work.

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