#34 Groundbreaking tentative agreement reached for 15,000 community caregivers

Bargaining bulletin

Unions representing community caregivers reached a tentative agreement with health employers on March 29 which will set in motion a process that will move 15,000 B.C. health services and support workers up and out of their wage ghetto.

The agreement includes a plan to dedicate resources equal to three per cent of the community payroll annually to wage and benefit adjustments for as long as it takes to close the gap between community and facilities health workers. HEU and the other unions estimate the gap to be about 25 per cent.

The three year agreement which ends on March 31, 2004 also includes annual wage increases of two per cent in years one and two, and in year three a cost of living increase or one and a half per cent, whichever is greater. Other highlights are increased benefits for casuals, higher overnight allowance minimum, and gains in health and safety, training and scheduling.

“This agreement is a remarkable achievement for B.C.’s community health care workers,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “And it means that British Columbia is the only government in North America that not only acknowledges there is wage discrimination against community caregivers, but has established a process to achieve parity.”

The tentative agreement also breaks the logjam on payment of five per cent in equity adjustments provided for in the 1998-2001 agreement. The first adjustment in the old contract will be paid retroactive to April 1, 1999 as a 2.5 per cent across-the-board increase based on the weighted average wage (everyone will receive the same cents per hour increase). Both sides have agreed that calculations and implementation will be top priority. The second adjustment — another 2.5 per cent of payroll — will be effective April 1, 2000 based on an interim classification match process that will also be fast tracked.

HEU’s Provincial Bargaining Committee and Provincial Executive are recommending acceptance of the tentative agreement. HEU members will be voting on April 11, 17, 18 and 19. Schedules will soon be finalized, and a comprehensive report will be available early next week.