December 13, 2017

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Fire-paramedic chief put on the hot seat over 'disrespectful' comments

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane.

A long-simmering backroom dispute between Winnipeg’s paramedics and firefighters goes public this week.

Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane will address a complaint from 156 paramedics and their union that he contributed to a disrespectful workplace at an arbitration hearing that begins this morning.

The complaint focuses on comments attributed to Lane at the August 2015 International Association of Fire Fighters conference in Maryland.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union Local 911, which represents Winnipeg’s paramedics, is demanding an apology from Lane for how he responded to the reaction from paramedics to his presentation at the conference. The union alleges the summary “belittled and demeaned” the paramedics of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

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A long-simmering backroom dispute between Winnipeg’s paramedics and firefighters goes public this week.

Fire Paramedic Chief John Lane will address a complaint from 156 paramedics and their union that he contributed to a disrespectful workplace at an arbitration hearing that begins this morning.

The complaint focuses on comments attributed to Lane at the August 2015 International Association of Fire Fighters conference in Maryland.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union Local 911, which represents Winnipeg’s paramedics, is demanding an apology from Lane for how he responded to the reaction from paramedics to his presentation at the conference. The union alleges the summary "belittled and demeaned" the paramedics of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service.

At the conference, Lane and Alex Forrest, president of the Winnipeg firefighters union, talked about the dual role firefighters are assuming as firefighters and paramedics.

The paramedics and their union took offence to the presentation summary, which stated in part: "This fire-based model is continuously threatened by single role EMS providers and misinformed leaders. The speakers in this workshop will present how they use facts to thwart rhetoric and protect the service they provide."

The MGEU filed a complaint in September 2015 under the City of Winnipeg’s Respectful Workplace Standard, which states the wording of the summary of Lane’s presentation was "insulting and disrespectful to our members. It has jeopardized employee morale, dignity and well-being and has the potential to undermine work relationships and productivity…

"These statements have left many members feeling as though any suggestions for improvements to this service model are being viewed as rhetoric and any concerns they would come forward with will be seen us unfactual or disingenuous. As professional paramedics, we have a legal, professional and ethical obligation to bring forward concerns about patient care..."

The union complaint continued: "It is our assertion that the Chief of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service... must be held to the highest standard in all his words and actions, must exhibit behaviour consistent with impartiality and avoid the appearance of favoritism and must strive to provide and maintain an environment respectful of all divisions under his leadership."

The paramedics’ complaint was investigated by an independent human resources consultant, whose report remains confidential but the document is expected to be entered into evidence by the union at the arbitration hearing.

"The membership of the paramedics union believes it has no alternative but to pursue this complaint," said a union source. "Even though Chief Lane had apologized, the paramedics believe the apology was far too late and insincere and the hearing is the only way to ensure paramedics are treated with respect."

The city decline to comment on the hearing Tuesday.

At the time the complaint was issued in 2015, firefighters union boss Forrest claimed most of the presentation was extremely complimentary of the work Winnipeg paramedics do in conjunction with firefighters.

The complaint is being heard by veteran labour arbitrator Arne Peltz. The hearing is scheduled for three days this week.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Read more by Aldo Santin .

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