Health employer appeal of pay equity ruling "disappointing" says HEU
Appeal could delay wage justice for thousands of caregivers A move by health employers to appeal a major pay equity ruling will delay justice for tens of thousands of health care workers, says B.C.'s largest union of women, and could signal renewed employer efforts to thwart a decades-long struggle to erase gender-based wage discrimination. The 44,000 member Hospital Employees' Union says a decision handed down last month by arbitrator Stephen Kelleher - which would have accelerated the pace at which discriminatory pay practices in health care are eliminated - should have been the final chapter in the union's pay equity campaign that began in the 1970s. But in an appeal filed at the Labour Relations Board late yesterday, the Health Employers Association of B.C. is asking that Kelleher expand on the reasons for his decision. "We find this latest move by employers to be disappointing to say the least," says HEU spokesperson Zorica Bosancic, who noted that HEABC has relied heavily on time-consuming appeals since the issue was referred to Kelleher in 1996. In his Sept. 21 decision, he awarded pay equity adjustments amounting to three per cent of payroll effective April 1996, or approximately $26 million annually. More than 99 per cent of the union's members in health care facilities have received pay equity adjustments or will in the future. However, thousands are still paid between 15 and 20 per cent less than their already agreed upon equity rates. "Thousands of union members stood to wait until 2020 for wage justice," said Bosancic. "Kelleher's decision would have reduced that wait by several years." "Health employers and our union have already agreed that front-line health care workers - mostly women - are subject to discriminatory pay practices," says Bosancic. "There's no question that women health care workers have subsidized our health care system for decades." Bosancic is hoping that the labour board will quickly deal with the appeal. And she says that HEABC's willingness to meet with HEU to discuss an award implementation process is a positive step.