Union calls for change in Winnipeg paramedic culture after harsh survey results

Paramedics on the scene in Winnipeg. Elisha Dacey/Global News

Winnipeg paramedics are looking for a change in workplace culture, according to a new survey.

The study, commissioned by the Manitoba Government and General Employees’ Union (MGEU) and conducted by Viewpoints Research, asked 100 Winnipeg-based paramedics about their job satisfaction, anxiety, concerns about workplace harassment and more.

MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky said the survey was precipitated by a headline-grabbing October 2020 incident in which firefighters delayed medical care and transportation of a woman in distress.

The incident was described in an independent report earlier this year as being fuelled by “implicit racial bias.”

“For many years now, MGEU has been raising concerns about disrespectful and discriminatory behaviour within the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS),” said Gawronsky.

“Now the crisis in this workplace has deteriorated to the point that patient care was threatened. We’ve been calling for city and WFPS leadership to step in and correct this behaviour because emergency medical services are too important to allow this situation to continue.”

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Read more: Winnipeg firefighters’ ‘racial bias’ prevented help for Indigenous patient, report says

The survey found that the vast majority of paramedics — a whopping 92 per cent — felt their employer didn’t have their back, and that large numbers were displeased with the leadership of either Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman (88 per cent) or WFPS Chief John Lane (92 per cent) on EMS issues.

A large number of paramedics (67 per cent) also reported anxiety going to work due to a negative working environment, and 65 per cent said they’ve considered leaving the profession entirely due to workplace frustration.

Gawronsky said the results of the survey — which also show a number of paramedics complaining of workplace bullying and harassment — show that there’s an opportunity for the city to “turn a new page” when it comes to new WFPS leadership in light of Lane’s upcoming retirement.

“These findings show what we have been speaking up about for years. This isn’t a dispute to be casually dismissed as some kind of feud between union leaders as the mayor has repeatedly done,” she said.

“This is the result of a workplace plagued with issues that have never been properly addressed… The new WFPS chief needs to adopt a whole new approach, with the support of the most senior levels of city leadership.”

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Lane, who has worked in emergency services for the better part of four decades and headed up the WFPS since 2014, announced his retirement earlier this week and will be leaving the position at the end of 2021.

Click to play video: 'Concerns raised over Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service handling of racial bias report' Concerns raised over Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service handling of racial bias report
Concerns raised over Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service handling of racial bias report – Feb 4, 2021


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