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With tens of thousands of health care workers holding the line in job actions at health care facilities throughout the province, B.C.’s labour minister Graham Bruce has asked his deputy minister, Lee Doney, to meet with health unions and health employers to determine whether or not productive talks at the bargaining table will be possible.
The union has agreed to meet with the deputy later today and is calling in the HEU provincial bargaining committee. The union is hoping the government move means that health employers are prepared to shift their position on worker layoffs during bargaining and their demands for nearly $900 million in wage and benefit rollbacks.
“A shift in their position on layoffs and concessions could open the door to productive bargaining and a freely negotiated settlement,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.
“A fair contract that protects health care services and decent-waged jobs has always been our goal, but in order for meaningful talks to take place employers must agree to put layoffs on hold while we talk and rethink the massive concession demands they are seeking from our members,” he says.
On the third day of job action most members are reporting continued support on the line from community members and trade unionists. “In some places, we’re hearing that the solidarity and support our members are receiving on the picket line is truly remarkable,” says Allnutt.
“There are a lot of people out there from many different walks of life who are honouring our stand for health care and who are inspired by the courage HEU members are showing on the line,” he says.
Pickets will remain up while the union meets with the labour deputy, who has been asked to report back to his minister at mid-day tomorrow.