01/24/2012 05:03 EST | Updated 03/25/2012 05:12 EDT

Toronto paramedics want to be essential service

Toronto paramedics rallied at city hall on Tuesday demanding that they join the ranks of police and fire services as an essential service.

About 250 paramedics were there, worried a looming lockout or strike would reduce their workforce by 15 per cent and affect their response time.

Roberta Scott, a paramedic for more than 20 years, said they are hoping that the mayor's executive committee will recommend essential-service designation to council. If council supports it, council would then make a request to the province.

"That's really important because as far we can tell there [are] no paramedics that are considered essential services right now," she said. "This would be precedent setting."

Some executive committee members agree with Scott, but deputy mayor Doug Holyday does not.

Holyday, who is chair of the labour relations committee, said it would be a mistake for council to grant the paramedics what they want while contract negotiations are ongoing.

"They're a part of [CUPE local] 416," he said. "If 416 wants to make a change, they can do it at the negotiating table. If they want to make a change at the negotiating table, then we can ask them for something in return. For the committee or council to agree to give it to them for absolutely nothing is ridiculous."

On Tuesday, the executive committee decided to defer the vote on the issue to another meeting.