Broad public support for health care union bargaining goals

News release

HEU poll shows four out of five British Columbians favour fair wage increase for health care workers

Health care unions’ bargaining proposals for increased staffing, action on injury rates, a fair wage increase and investment in skills training have broad support from the public, according to the results of a Hospital Employees’ Union/McIntyre and Mustel public opinion survey released today.

When asked about their level of agreement with a series of bargaining related statements, 91 per cent of those polled agreed or strongly agreed that health care collective agreements that increase staffing to adequate levels will improve the quality of health care services.

And there’s 85 per cent total agreement that health care delivery would also be improved by the presence of mechanical patient lifts and other equipment designed to reduce the injury rate in health care.

The Jan. 9 — 12 telephone survey of 409 British Columbians was conducted for the HEU by the public opinion firm McIntyre and Mustel and is considered accurate to within five per cent, 19 times out of 20.

“When it comes to ways of improving health care delivery, the public and health care workers are on the same page” says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “Our challenge is to convince health employers that we can take measures at the bargaining table that will result in concrete improvements to the care British Columbians receive.”

A major bargaining goal for the health care unions is to end wage discrimination against workers in the community health sector. And it appears the public also support this goal — 78% of those polled agree that health care workers in community services should be paid the same as those working in hospitals and long-term care facilities.

There’s also broad support for a general wage increase with 82 per cent of those polled supporting an increase.

NDP and Liberal supporters favour wage increases for health care workers by a margin of 88 and 87 per cent respectively.

Respondents were asked to rate reasons for health care wage increases. Those polled gave top billing to the need for competitive wages to retain and attract skilled and experienced health care workers. Recognition that workloads for health care workers have increased significantly also polled strongly.

And there’s a near unanimous public understanding of the depth of the health care team. A convincing 98 per cent of the respondents agreed that a good health care system depends on many different kinds of health care workers, not just on doctors and nurses.

HEU and its union bargaining partners return to the bargaining table today and have scheduled talks through to March 1. The collective agreements covering 60,000 health services and support workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities, regional health authorities and community agencies expire on March 31.

-30- For more information, please contact at 604/734-3431: Stephen Howard, communications director, 604/240-8524 (cell) Mike Old, communications officer, 604/828-6771 (cell)