Talks for 60,000 health care workers resume Wednesday

News release

Ten days of talks scheduled over next four weeks

Collective bargaining for more than 60,000 B.C. health care workers resumes Wednesday in Vancouver and representatives of health care unions and health employers have scheduled twenty-one more days of talks up to March 1.

The two sides held their first bargaining sessions in December, says Hospital Employees’ Union spokesperson Chris Allnutt, where broad bargaining themes were exchanged.

“But now it’s time to roll up our sleeves and negotiate a contract that’s fair to health care workers and protects and improves the delivery of health care to British Columbians,” says Allnutt.

“Our goal is to conclude these talks before our contracts expire on March 31.” After five years of government wage controls, health care workers expect fair wage increases, but that’s only one element of a possible settlement.

“In the days ahead, we’ll be tabling proposals that will strengthen health care by reducing injury rates, increasing staffing levels, bolstering training opportunities and protecting services against privatization,” says Allnutt.

And a top priority for the unions is to eliminate wage and benefit discrimination against community-based health workers. For example, a community Care Aide who provides home care to the elderly earns about three dollars an hour less than her counterpart in a long-term care facility.

“The lack of parity within health care is widely acknowledged by health employers,” says BC Government and Service Employees’ Union president George Heyman. “Now it’s time to end this discriminatory practice.”

Caregivers covered by the talks include more than 18,000 Licenced Practical Nurses, Care Aides, nursing assistants and paramedical technical positions who provide bedside care in health facilities, along with more than 8,000 Community Care Aides who provide vital home support services for seniors and the disabled in the community.

Also covered in the talks are clerical staff involved in admitting, OR booking and scheduling; food services workers; residential care attendants in mental health group homes; housekeeping staff; trades and maintenance; and other community caregivers who work directly for regional health authorities and in drug and alcohol services and special programs for women and children.

With 45,000 members covered by the talks, HEU is the largest union involved in the negotiations. The BCGEU with 10,000 members, and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518, with 3,500 members, are the other main unions.

-30- For more information, please contact: Mike Old, HEU communications officer, 604-734-3431 (o) or 604-828-6771 (c) Brian Gardiner, BCGEU communications officer, 604-291-9611 (o)