15/03/01

News release
Check Against Delivery

Statement by Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union which represents 45,000 caregivers in hospitals, long-term care facilities and community health services.

“Three nights ago, Premier Ujjal Dosanjh told British Columbians that he’s made it his mission to find practical health care solutions. That’s a message that our 60,000 members are pleased to hear.

We want to tell the Premier here, today, that the practical solutions to the many challenges facing health care are within his grasp.

Our members work in hospitals, long-term care and community health agencies in towns and cities across B.C. And because we’re on the front lines we know the problems facing health care. And we have the solutions — solutions that we’ve tabled during eight weeks of intense negotiations with the Health Employers Association of B.C.

Like dealing with record injury rates in health care that cost the system upwards of $100 million a year and take a tremendous physical and emotional toll on health care workers. We’ve proposed a significant investment in new lifting equipment that would reduce injuries, save money and improve care for our patients, residents and clients.

On the bargaining table right now are the practical solutions the Premier is looking for to help ease B.C.’s chronic nursing shortage. How would we do it? Through increased utilization of Licenced Practical Nurses and Care Aides and a comprehensive training plan to ensure that we’re able to deal with looming skills shortages in nursing and other areas of health care.

What about the care deficit in our long-term care facilities and in home support where staffing levels are so low that seniors and the disabled aren’t receiving the care they need and deserve? We’ve put a plan on the table that would lift staffing levels out of the danger zone.

And how do we provide seamless care from the hospital to the home and ensure that the women and men who deliver health services in the community are respected and properly valued? Our solution is to eliminate all the barriers that stand in the way of integrating care. That’s a legislative commitment made by the Premier last fall and we’re confident he’ll fulfill his pledge. It also means implementing wage and benefit parity for community caregivers to eliminate the wage discrimination they’ve endured for years.

And yes, a fair wage increase is part of the solution.

The public wants solutions. We want solutions. The Premier wants solutions.

But health employers have responded with a full menu of concessions demands — vacation cuts and reduced benefits to injured workers are the main course.

And yesterday, employers took another step backward by demanding $60 million in rollbacks to the pay equity plan that covers most health care workers. That’s a real insult to women in our union and is completely out of step with the government’s commitment to make pay equity the law in B.C.

And the fact that they have not tabled a compensation offer for community health workers is further evidence that health care employers are continuing to treat community caregivers as second class health workers.

There is one issue on which health employers and our unions agree — that it’s important to reach a settlement before the current agreement expires on March 31. But it seems HEABC needs to be brought back into the real world of health care if we’re to achieve this goal in the next few weeks.

That’s why, today we’re announcing that our unions will be asking our 60,000 members to vote yes in strike votes that will be held across the province starting on March 8 — International Women’s Day.

The calling of this strike vote should send a clear signal to health employers that they need to focus more on solutions at the bargaining table. We expect that the vote results — which will be announced around March 19 — will provide all parties including government with additional reason to focus on achieving a settlement.

We’ve already scheduled 11 days of bargaining through this month and today we’re making a commitment to go even further to reach a settlement. We’re prepared to bargain 24 hours a day to achieve a fair agreement that improves conditions for our members and improves the quality of care for British Columbians.”

Statement by Daryl Barnett, chief negotiator for 10,000 caregivers represented by the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union. BGGEU represents 10,000 caregivers in home support, community health services and long-term care.

“We have put forward positions to ensure pay equity and parity are achieved between community and facilities-based health care workers.

In many cases, facilities based workers doing similar jobs to community based workers make as much as $3 per hour more for similar work in some classifications. Community based workers do not have the same vacation, shift differentials, premiums, paid maternity leave and other provision that facilities based workers have.

This discrimination must end. We must have agreement on the principle of parity and pay equity.”

Statement by Brooke Sundin, president of Local 1518 of the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents 3,500 community care aides in home support.

“The scheduling of work by `date of hire’ seniority is a critical bargaining issue for the 3500 Home Health Care Workers represented by the UFCW Local 1518.

Any change in the current seniority provisions contained in the Collective Agreement will seriously erode the benefits and working conditions of these workers.

Local 1518 members are not prepared to accept any concessions with regard to seniority.”

For more information, please contact: Mike Old, HEU communications officer at 604-734-3431 or 604-828-6771 (cell) Brian Gardiner, BCGEU communications officer at 604-291-9611 Tom Fawkes, UFCW Local 1518 communications director at 604-434-3101