#32 Negotiations hit major snag

Bargaining bulletin

Equity and a fair wage increase at issue

After a productive weekend of talks where agreement was reached on all non-monetary issues and HEABC withdrew their concession demands, negotiations with health employers have hit a major snag over important equity issues and a fair wage increase.

The equity issue revolves around the principle that health workers should receive equal pay and benefits for doing the same work. Fifteen thousand community caregivers are paid about $3.50 an hour less than their facilities counterparts and about 2,000 HEU members in a significant number of long-term care facilities have been denied pay and benefits equal to other workers covered by the same contract.

HEABC has rejected the principle of parity for community caregivers and would delay justice for “non-levelled” long-term care workers.

In terms of a general wage increase, benefit and other compensation improvements, there is still a significant gap between the unions and health employers. HEABC has not recognized the role a fair compensation package plays in keeping and attracting skilled and experienced health care workers.

Their proposal for a general wage increase falls below that agreed to in the direct public service earlier this month.

On Monday, both sides were in contact but face-to-face meetings did not materialize as expected. The unions are awaiting a call to the table Tuesday.

HEU’s secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt describes the situation as “tense” with the clock ticking towards the expiry of the collective agreement this weekend. Strike notice can be issued as early as Thursday, March 29.

But he repeated the unions’ commitment to bargain round the clock to reach an agreement by the end of the month.