Health care workers to receive major pay equity settlement
But pay equity targets still years away for tens of thousands of front-line workers, says HEU FACT SHEETS FOLLOW RELEASE After an eight-year wait, nearly 40,000 front-line health care workers will finally receive wage adjustments and retroactive payments related to a major pay equity settlement awarded last fall by a third party arbitrator. Last week, health employers agreed not to make any further appeals to a September 21, 1999 decision by arbitrator Stephen Kelleher which awards a pay equity adjustment valued at about $25.8 million - or three per cent of payroll ñ effective April 1, 1996. As a result, almost 40,000 health care workers in B.C.'s hospitals and long-term care facilities - who are mostly female - will receive monthly adjustments in their pay of up to $130 a month and retroactive payments ranging from $960 to $7,700. "The struggle to end gender-based wage discrimination in health care has been a long one," says Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees' Union. "This pay equity win shortens by several years the wait for gender-neutral wage rates for many front-line health care workers." "But despite this significant advance towards pay equity, many workers will still have to wait between four and 15 years before their pay equity target rates are reached," adds Allnutt. "It's unfortunate that workers in B.C. must depend on collective bargaining to achieve gender neutral pay rates. What is urgently required is comprehensive pay equity legislation." Allnutt says HEU and health employers have had productive discussions over the last few months on the implementation of the pay equity award. As a result, front-line workers will see their pay rates adjusted on or before May 1. Kelleher's award is based on one element of the pay equity process first outlined in HEU's major 1991-1994 master collective agreements covering hospitals and most long-term care facilities. It involves a comparison of the wages and benefits of HEU members with those of workers in the direct public service. An interim payment of 3.7 per cent of payroll was made against this difference in 1994 with the balance payable on April 1, 1996. After several years of arbitration hearings, Kelleher determined that the cost of achieving comparability between health care workers and the direct public service is three per cent of the 1996 payroll plus improvements in maternity and parental leave benefits. As a general rule, pay equity funds have been weighted towards those job classifications that experience the greatest gap between their current pay rate and the target pay equity rates which were agreed to by HEU and health employers several years ago. The NDP government put aside the funds to cover the retroactive costs of the pay equity decision in a special warrant issued earlier this year. Though the award is retroactive back to April 1, 1996, the total retroactive costs are reflected in a single fiscal year - 1999/2000. Fact sheet - Pay equity/ comparability award
- Arbitrator Stephen Kelleher's Sept. 21/99 award applies to nearly 40,000 front-line health care workers in B.C. hospitals and long-term care facilities
- Comparability, as an element of pay equity, has been part of HEU's collective agreements with health employers since 1991.
- Kelleher's award includes three per cent of payroll ($25.8 million) effective April 1, 1996 plus improvements to maternity and parental leave benefits. Interest is also due on retroactive amounts.
- Base wage rate adjustments are weighted towards those job classifications with the largest remaining pay equity wage gaps. Pay equity targets were established in 1993 after interviews were conducted with a representative sample of more than 3,000 health care workers. Target rates are based on a job comparison based on ten factors including education, physical and mental demands, training and experience and responsibility.
- In addition to comparability, the collective agreement currently in force for general and support workers in hospitals and long-term care facilities includes annual pay equity adjustments valued at one per cent of payroll.
- Assuming these annual adjustments continue to be made at the current rate of one per cent of payroll a year, Kelleher's award will shave about three years off the wait for pay equity (from ten years to seven years on average.)
- For example, prior to Kelleher's decsion, the wage rate for care aides was 14 per cent below their pay equity target rate, which would have taken 14 years to reach. Kelleher's decision reduces that gap to 11 per cent and the wait to 11 years. There are about 10,000 care aides working mostly with seniors in long-term care facilities throughout B.C.
- Other examples: the remaining wage gap for switchboard operators will be seven per cent; cooks - four per cent; licensed practical nurses - 12 per cent; medical stenographer - five per cent.
- Individual health care workers can expect to see monthly adjustments in their pay scale of up to $130. Retroactive one time payments to cover the effective date of April 1, 1996 range from $960 to $7,700.
- HEU members are employed in a number of different occupations including: care aides, activity aides, licensed practical nurses, lab technicians, housekeeping and laundry, trades and maintenance, clerical including medical records and transcription, dietary services, biomedical technology, stores and others.
- The HEU is the largest union of health care workers in B.C. with 45,000 members. Itís also B.C.'s largest union of women - 87 per cent of the membership is female. The union was founded in 1944. HEU is the B.C. Health Services division of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.