Kelleher clears path to final comparability settlement

Arbitrator Stephen Kelleher has called for “finality” in the process of determining comparabilty between HEU members in the facilities sector and BCGEU members who carry out similar work in direct government service. And he’s set February 27 as the date when all outstanding issues in the long-standing comparability process will be heard. Since the 1970s, comparability has been a key element in HEU’s efforts to eliminate the wage discrimination faced by health care workers who are mostly women. In a ruling handed down January 22, his third on comparibility since May 1997, Kelleher again rejected employer efforts to block HEU’s claim for comparability payments to members as first set out in the 1991 facilities master agreement. In fact, Kelleher’s conclusions on several key comparability issues will assist HEU in obtaining fair compensation for members in the final leg of the comparability process. Kelleher says that HEU members receiving payments should not bear the cost of the long wait for comparability. He rules that interest should be paid on comparability payments retroactive to July 1, 1996. And Kelleher ruled against health employers’ argument that comparability was limited by government compensation guidelines set out by the Public Sector Employers’ Council. He maintains that comparability represents an agreement between HEU and health employers when they accepted terms of settlement in 1992 and extended it in 1994. “Most significantly, Kelleher rejected HEABC’s contention that comparability has been been mysteriously achieved over the last six years,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “That leaves one task ahead of us — reaching an agreement on the adjustments necessary to achieve comparability.” Kelleher has directed the parties to consider the following factors in finalizing comparabilty: wage differences at April 1, 1996, differences in job security, differences in benefits and differences in working conditions — including hours of work. “It’s been a long wait for our members,” says Allnutt. “But it finally looks like we’re coming to the end of our struggle to achieve comparability.”