15/03/01

News release
Buoyed by strong vote results, unions say they're determined to reach a negotiated settlement by March 31

[Vancouver] Health care workers from across B.C. have delivered a convincing 90 per cent strike mandate to back their unions' efforts to reach a negotiated settlement in contract talks that are entering their 11th week.

And with collective agreements covering 60,000 services and support workers in hospitals, long-term care homes, home support and community health agencies and health authorities set to expire March 31, union leaders say they're prepared to meet around the clock to resolve outstanding issues at the bargaining table.

"Front-line health care workers have sent a clear message to health employers and government with this strong strike vote result," says Hospital Employees' Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt who represents 45,000 members at the bargaining table.

"We're absolutely determined to negotiate an agreement that makes health care work safer, improves the quality of care and deals with looming skills shortages through increased training and competitive salaries."

The unions are also putting a top priority on ending wage discrimination against the 15,000 community caregivers who are paid about $3.50 an hour less than their hospital and long-term care counterparts for doing the same work.

"The time for fair pay is overdue for community caregivers who work with seniors, the mentally ill, persons with disabilities and other vulnerable people in our society," says B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union president George Heyman whose union represents 16,000 caregivers. "Achieving parity is fundamental to reaching a settlement."

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518 president Brooke Sundin says the 3,700 Community Care Aides, who are members of his union, have waited long enough to have the value of their work recognized. "We won't wait another decade to right this wrong," he says.

The unions say they'll make every effort to reach a negotiated settlement before considering any job action. Talks continue this week.

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For more information, please contact:

Mike Old, HEU, 604-734-3431 or 604-828-6771 (cell)

Carol Nielson, BCGEU, 604-291-9611 or 604-240-8908 (cell)

Tom Fawkes, UFCW Local 1518, 604-434-3101