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October 26, 2014

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Officials try to curb ambulance drivers strike

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Amanda Finnegan

Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid (left) and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman (right) addressed the issue of a potential Las Vegas paramedic strike beginning Nov. 28 at a Wednesday afternoon news conference.

Beyond the Sun

The threat of Las Vegas' ambulance drivers and paramedics going on strike at the height of the flu season and the upcoming holidays has led local government officials to step in today to help settle the differences.

Emergency medical services professionals with Las Vegas American Medical Response ambulance company voted to go on strike Nov. 28, the day after Thanksgiving, because of an unresolved contract dispute with AMR, government officials announced in a news conference today.

If Las Vegas AMR employees strike, about 100 members are expected walk out, leaving 60 percent of local ambulances out of service.

AMR plans to bring in out-of-state drivers if employees do go on strike — which will hurt services, according to Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

“These [Las Vegas] paramedics know this community, have served it well, and are better suited to continue that service. No one wants AMR to bring in replacement drivers from out of state. Their lack of familiarity with the community could potentially slow response times,” Goodman said.

Goodman and Rory Reid, Clark County Commission chairman, met with AMR and IAEP this morning to encourage the parties to resolve their differences for the sake of the community.

“We urged them to resolve because we are a tourist-based economy and the world does not need to hear that Las Vegas does not have the service of its paramedics,” Reid said. “We asked them to resolve this because it may jeopardize the heath and safety of our residents.”

The government cannot legally intervene or threaten the two private parties but instead has urged the organizations to communicate, Goodman said.

The city of Las Vegas announced a contingency plan in the event of a strike. The Las Vegas Fire and Rescue Department will supply nine additional units in addition to the 21 the department operates each day. The County Fire Department currently has 24 life support vehicles.

The two sides have not begun contract negotiations yet. Representatives of AMR said it is unclear who the paramedics’ representative is since their contract with Service Employees International Union Local 1107 has expired. The paramedics say their new union is International Association of EMTs and Paramedics.

According to the National Labor Relations Act, AMR cannot legally bargain with the IAEP Local 5000. It is considered an unfair labor practice for an employer to bargain with any group other than the labor organization certified by the National Labor Relations Board as the bargaining unit's legal representative.

AMR has filed a petition asking the NLRB to resolve the matter. If the board validates the company's position, AMR will request an NLRB-supervised election, which would allow employees to vote on which group should represent them.

IAEP has blocked an NLRB election by filing an unfair labor practices charge against AMR. The first hearing is schedule for Dec. 2, the Tuesday following the set strike date.

Once the dispute over representation is resolved, Goodman said, “I see no reason why they can’t sit down at the bargaining table and take care of the issues at hand.”

- Sun writer Mary Manning contributed to this story.

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