Just a 'fraction' of 911 dispatchers actually needed are working, B.C. union warns ahead of long weekend

British Columbians are being warned that they may have to wait in the event of an emergency as the province's biggest 911 service operator has just a "fraction of the dispatchers needed" working this weekend.

The latest of several such messages from E-Comm workers' union advises again that "critical staff shortages" may impact service.

In a news release, Emergency Communications Professionals of B.C. says 911 dispatchers were sent a message warning them the company "may have to resort to forced overtime" to meet the minimum staffing level required over the weekend.

"We are entering the Canada Day long weekend with a fraction of the dispatchers needed to meet anticipated demand, and the current solution is forcing dispatchers to work well beyond their normal four-day, 12-hour shift schedule, which is simply unsustainable," said union president Donald Grant.

The union is pushing for more jobs, saying staffing is insufficient because "an inability to recruit and retain staff due to non-competitive wages and severe burnout."

Also warning of staffing shortage impacts are the Ambulance Paramedics of B.C.

Earlier this week the group said there have been major efforts to recruit, as well as extra funding and resources, but it's still been a challenge to find staff.

"What that has highlighted is how far behind we got over the last 20 years by the governments of the times," the union's president said. Even with recent investments, it's "still not enough."

The Ministry of Health says it's added 125 full-time paramedics and 42 dispatcher positions, but the unions argue pay and benefits need to be improved because right now, current staff are leaving faster than new staff can be hired.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Regan Hasegawa

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