Comparability fight goes to arbitrator

Dozens of caregivers attend today’s hearing into their exclusion from landmark pay equity/comparability award

Dozens of front-line caregivers representing more than 1,000 of their co-workers will form part of HEU’s delegation at a hearing into their exclusion from the union’s historic pay equity/comparability settlement.

The Jan. 25-26 hearing was demanded by HEU when the Health Employers Association of B.C. directed its members to withhold comparability-related wage adjustments, retroactive payments and maternity and parental leave improvements from health care workers employed by about 30 long-term care facilities.

But HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt calls HEABC’s action hypocritical especially in light of information uncovered by the union last year that shows that some health employers are passing on the pay equity adjustments to non-union worksites.

“It’s union busting — clear and simple,” says Allnutt. “And this shameful action will do nothing but strengthen our case in front of the arbitrator.”

The issue has also emerged during negotiations for a new contract covering 60,000 health care workers including the 1,000 excluded from comparability.

“As long as these workers stand outside the comparability framework,” says Allnutt. “no health care workers’ wage and benefit gains are secure.”

Health employers say they’re not eligible because they’re from workplaces that weren’t covered by the “me too” provisions of collective agreements that pre-existed the current facilities standard agreement.

But these workers are covered by the same pay equity provisions that resulted in HEU’s landmark comparability award in 1999, says Allnutt, and should also benefit from the award.

The arbitration was initially scheduled for Nov. 26 but was postponed after HEABC threatened a bevy of procedural delays. The hearing takes place in front of arbitrator Stephen Kelleher in Vancouver.