HEU ratifies groundbreaking agreement with Gitxsan Health Authority

News release

First contract recognizes cultures, traditions of First Nations health care workers

KITWANGA — A new collective agreement between unionized health care workers and the Gitxsan Health Authority (GHA) signals a growing and maturing relationship between First Nations and organized labour, says the Hospital Employees’ Union.

Gitxsan health workers today ratified a first contract that reflects their unique traditions and culture while providing for fair wages, benefits and working conditions.

“This contract is further evidence that unions and First Nations can and will work together to strengthen health care and other public services while remaining sensitive to the cultural context within which these services are delivered,” says HEU’s northern director Kathy Jessome.

The new agreement incorporates elements of Ayoo’kum Gitxsan — the Gitxsan hereditary law — by acknowledging the principle of respect for elders and the sharing of the feast. The contract includes wilp — or clan membership — among the prohibited grounds for discrimination. And union members have access to special leave to attend to traditional food gathering activities and funeral customs.

The contract also establishes a competitive wage and benefits schedule on par with workers in the neighbouring Nass Valley where the HEU signed a first contract with the Nisga’a Valley Health Board earlier this year.

Community health workers, addiction and mental health councillors, aboriginal justice workers, clerical and maintenance staff are among the 58 union members covered by the Gitxsan deal.

They work from community health centres located in Kispiox, Glen Vowell, Kitwanga, Kitwancool and Old Hazelton.

The GHA ratified the agreement on July 4. The contract expires March 31, 2002.