01/07/2013 02:43 EST | Updated 03/09/2013 05:12 EST

Health minister agrees to negotiate with striking ambulance workers

Talks between Quebec's health ministry and the union representing thousands of striking ambulance workers are set to begin this week.

Quebec's Health Minister Réjean Hébert said Monday that his ministry will be returning to the bargaining table with the CSN labour federation on Wednesday.

"I told them our leeway was limited but that there was a leeway," said Hébert. "Our negotiation teams have a mandate, and the discussions we'll be having are meant to find an agreement with ambulance workers as soon as possible."

He said he does not expect to reach an agreement with the CSN on Wednesday because of the union's extensive demands.

The CSN represents about 2,500 striking ambulance workers.

On Sunday, over 30 ambulance technicians and paramedics demanded that Quebec's health ministry set dates for more negotiations.

Yvon Bonesso, the union's spokesman, said the group wants an improved pay scale along with better pension plans and benefits.

Ambulance workers and paramedics triggered an unlimited general strike on Dec. 24 after talks broke down with employers.

They have since used pressure tactics to make their demands known.

They have been without a contract since March 2010 and have been negotiating for a new one since February 2011.

The tentative deal reached in July was turned down by 71 per cent of the union's members in October.