HEABC wish list for Liberals

Health employers want newly elected government to gut collective bargaining rights and dismantle HEU’s main bargaining unit

Legislation banning job action is just the first of a long list of anti-worker demands that health employers have put to B.C.’s new provincial government according to a secret briefing document obtained by HEU.

Dated May 18 — just two days after Liberals won the provincial election — the Health Employers Association of B.C. brief contains a legislative wish list that would restrict health care workers’ bargaining rights, dismantle HEU’s main collective bargaining unit and undermine WCB regulations on ergonomics and workplace violence.

“HEABC has high hopes that the new Liberal government will implement their outrageous and destructive agenda for health care labour relations,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “I sincerely hope that the new government has the wisdom to recognize the chaos in health care that would result if that agenda were carried out.”

Unfortunately, it appears that the government is already moving forward on health employers’ demands. They’ve asked for a 40-day “cooling-off period” during which job action by health care workers would be banned. On June 20, the Liberal government passed a law imposing a 60-day cooling-off period on the Nurses’ and Paramedical Professional bargaining associations.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Health employers want expanded restrictions on legal job action including: designating all care aides and LPNs 100 per cent essential; increasing strike notice to seven days from the current three days; and banning job action during provincial elections.

Further restrictions on bargaining favoured by health employers include forcing arbitrators in collective bargaining disputes to compare public sector wages with those in the private sector and empowering the Minister of Labour to impose those settlements on workers.

And HEABC is determined to dismantle HEU’s main collective agreement piece by piece.

For starters, employers want to rebuild the wall between community and facilities services and support workers by repealing Bill 23 — the recent legislation that eliminated the wall only two months ago.

Then health employers would have thousands of LPNs transferred to the Nurses’ Bargaining Association in order to “rationalize” — read reduce — the wages of these important nursing team members and stir up inter-union friction.

The HEABC document, ironically labelled “Health Labour Relations Solutions for a New Era,” also recommends a giant step backward to a bygone era where government-funded private, for-profit health care employers — represented by Pricare — bargained separate contracts with health care unions.

Health employers are demanding more “realistic” approaches by WCB to ergonomics and workplace violence. And they’re demanding that government assist them in their union-busting efforts by funding non-union workplaces so that they can provide union-level wages and benefits.

They’re also looking out for their own pay packs and perks. The HEABC brief demands a review of management compensation so that they can “attract, motivate and retain highly skilled professionals and executives.” But while big pay increases for management are on their minds, health employers aren’t convinced that tens of thousands of underpaid women deserve wage justice. They want the government to repeal this year’s long overdue pay equity legislation.

“Old habits die hard and it looks like we’re back to checkered sports jackets, wide ties and draconian labour relations practices over at the HEABC,” says Allnutt.

“But HEABC’s agenda would lead to chaos in our health care system and the public won’t stand for that. Our union will continue to work with our allies and with government to improve the quality of care British Columbians expect and deserve. And we’ll fight HEABC’s destructive agenda tooth and nail.”

What health employers want

  • care aides and LPNs designated 100 per cent essential
  • strike notice increased from three to seven days
  • empower labour minister to impose third-party settlements
  • huge wage increases for excluded managers
  • split off private, for-profit employers from HEU master agreement
  • re-establish the community/facility wall
  • gut WCB regulations on ergonomics and workplace violence ? and much more