#6Health employers seeking concessions

Bargaining bulletin

On day two of talks, HEABC tactics take on “retro” character

In an opening volley harkening back to the 1980s, B.C.’s health employers have tabled a series of concession demands in the first substantive day of bargaining for a new agreement for 60,000 health services and support workers.

The Health Employers Association of B.C. is looking for major take aways in areas such as hours of work and cuts to vacation and sick leave accumulation. And health employers say the list of concessions tabled on January 10 is “not an exhaustive list.”

“I’m frankly surprised that health employers are nostalgically clinging to the bargaining practices of the Vander Zalm era,” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “British Columbians expect more. They expect both sides to bargain a collective agreement that results in better health care delivery.”

The employers’ concession demands include (but are not limited to): ? employer right to cut hours by five hours a week without issuing a displacement notice; ? slash maximum sick leave accumulation by 26 days; ? cut vacation entitlement up to four days a year (while red circling vacation for employees above these new lower entitlements); ? undermine posting provisions, bumping rights and the role of seniority in promotions; ? right to approach employees for waivers on scheduling issues; ? requirement for casuals to state availability; ? employer right to require licenses, courses and certifications not contained in benchmarks; ? cut injury-on-duty pay to 100 per cent of net pay; and ? limits on employer-paid time for union activists to attend labour management and third party hearings and a shift of the cost of attending such hearings to the union.

“It appears health employers have forgotten what century they’re in,” says Allnutt. “Because some of these concession demands haven’t seen the light of day for a decade.

“Incredibly, HEABC told us that their proposals were respectful of workers and representative of what local employers are looking for in a new collective agreement,” adds Allnutt.

“They’re wrong on both counts. These concession demands go to the heart of hard won provisions in our collective agreements and will do nothing to improve our health care system. And I believe many local employers would be appalled by HEABC’s opening position.”

In stark contrast, the union bargaining association fleshed out its plan for a fair collective agreement and improved health care delivery in its 13-page opening position entitled “Five Steps Forward For Our Future and Our Health Care.”

Download the unions' opening position here in Adobe Acrobat format (open.PDF) or Wordperfect format (open.wpd).

Some highlights of the “no concessions” position include: ? One contract for all — achieving seamless care delivery through a single master agreement while acknowledging unique conditions in facility and community settings through subsidiary agreements; resolution of inequities in the areas of comparability, pensions, LTD, wages and benefits. ? Employment Security - better health care through effective use of health care workers by strengthening employment security provisions and improvements to training and education opportunities; measures to better use the nursing team, reduce contracting out and define rights and roles of volunteers; better treatment of casual employees. ? Compensation improvements — attract and retain skilled and experienced health care workers through a range of wage and benefit improvements; a two year agreement with an across the board flat dollar increase in the first year and a fixed percentage increase in the second; strengthen classification system and review targeted benchmarks. ? Safe Workplace — a series of proposals that include appropriate staffing levels and a `no manual lifting’ provision that together will reduce injury rates and improve health care delivery. ? Fairness and Justice — proposals on issues ranging from union and personal rights, improvements in working conditions and other measures that address inequities in the current agreement. It’s not all bad news according to Allnutt. HEABC has indicated a willingness to work hard to reach an agreement before March 31.

Both the unions’ and HEABC’s opening positions have been sent to HEU locals today. The unions’ opening position is also available at .

The HEU, BCGEU, UFCW and the other unions at the Health Services and Support table have scheduled 21 more days of talks with HEABC up to March 1. Next week the two sides meet January 23 - 25.