In anticipation of a busy summer for emergency services and the potential for heightened overtime requirements, E-Comm undertook a significant number of initiatives to support the mental and physical health of our staff while ensuring we could continue answering 9-1-1 calls from British Columbians in need of emergency help. Some of these initiatives included increasing access to psychological supports for staff and providing pay enhancements for overtime callouts.
We know it has been another challenging summer for our staff, particularly our call takers and dispatchers, and want to acknowledge the toll this continued need for regular overtime can have. As an organization, E-Comm is assessing all available short- and long-term options which will allow us to support the health and wellness of our staff, including the possibility of extending our current initiatives.
When British Columbians dial 9-1-1 in a life or death situation, it is critical that someone is available on the other end of the line to answer their call for help. As the first first responders, E-Comm call takers and dispatchers play this integral role in the emergency response ecosystem to ensure the public gets help from first responders when they need it most.
Like many other public safety agencies facing staffing challenges this summer, there have been times where E-Comm has relied on employees working overtime to make sure there were enough people available to answer 9-1-1 calls and dispatch first responders. This does include occasions where “forced overtime” notices have been issued to some staff. Although forced overtime is an absolute last resort option for E-Comm, it is available through our collective agreement with CUPE Local 8911 as a mechanism to mitigate the potential risk to public and responder safety based on E-Comm’s staffing levels.
Since the beginning of June, we have issued 13 notices of forced overtime which have resulted in 9.5 shifts being covered in this manner–all which have been compensated in accordance to our collective agreement.