HEU available for comment on NDP's 'transparency' announcement
MLAs also invited to contact union for assistance in interpreting collective agreement details The chief spokesperson for the Hospital Employees' Union, Chris Allnutt, is available later today for comment on Victoria's announcement of public sector settlement costs from the 1998 round of bargaining. "We're befuddled by the implications of this process," says Allnutt. "It seems to imply that our bargaining is conducted behind a veil of secrecy. In our union bargaining is a truly open and transparent process." He said the union expects the government document will reflect some important achievements in the 1998 round of bargaining, such as a two-percent wage increase in the third year of the agreement; an annual one-percent pay equity adjustment; benefit improvements; and health sector-wide initiatives like a new occupational health and safety agency. The union will also be watching to ensure that HEU's recently announced pay equity award, which was part of its 1991 collective agreement, is included in the document. Allnutt expects that the cost of the settlement - about $120 million retroactive to 1996 - will be clearly reported, but not calculated as part of 1998-2001 contract costs. HEU's main contract, called the facilities sector agreement, covers 42,000 union members along with 3,000 caregivers from other unions. These caregivers - 87 per cent of whom are women - provide a range of health services in B.C. hospitals and long term care facilities. They are the lowest paid workers in the sector. In addition, HEU represents 3,000 caregivers who work in community health and social services. These members have benefited significantly from a government commitment to low wage redress - pay increases that will increase their wage rates from as low as $8 an hour in 1999 to more than $16 an hour by 2003. Earlier this week HEU released calculations of major cost items in its 1998-2001 facilities contract and details about the pay equity arbitration decision. Copies are available from HEU's website, www.heu.org.