Health employers running down the clock on contract talks

News release

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With the contract covering 38,000 hospital and long-term care workers set to expire March 31, health unions say there's no movement at the bargaining table from employers on job security and wages.

The multi-union bargaining association tabled a new proposal Thursday but says that the creative, problem-solving approach promised by government is in little evidence in talks with the Health Employers Association of BC that began on January 26.

"We"ve taken the finance minister at her word and have approached these talks with a view to finding creative solutions to health care challenges and a fair deal for our members,” says Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager Judy Darcy.

“But rather than engage in this conversation, health employers continue to issue pink slips to union members in order to contract out both direct care and support work in seniors’ care facilities. At a time when we need more stability in long-term care, they’re showing our members the door.

“And HEABC has not budged on a general wage offer of 1.5 per cent annually despite the fact that union members had their wages cut by ten times that amount two years ago,” adds Darcy. “At that rate, it will take our members until 2016 to recoup their wage losses from 2004.”

Darcy says that while HEABC has finally acknowledged skills shortages in areas like trades and IT, their response falls short of what’s needed and they continue to ignore similar challenges for LPNs and a range of other high-demand health care occupations.

“Let’s not wait for recruitment and retention crises to become full-blown emergencies before we act,” says Darcy. “Health employers need to work with us to solve problems in nursing, diagnostic services and patient records before they put health care delivery at further risk.”

Health workers covered by the talks work in more than 270 classifications and include nursing; trades and maintenance; diagnostic testing; logistics and supplies; dietary; patient records; and others.

The ten-union bargaining group includes HEU (35,000 members), the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union (1,300 members) and the International Union of Operating Engineers (950).