Community caregivers ratify new contract

News release

Health services and support workers have voted 84.9 per cent to ratify a new collective agreement that ends wage discrimination against 15,000 community-based health care workers.

“This new contract is a significant victory for the thousands of community caregivers who have historically been underpaid and undervalued,” said George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union (BCGEU) which represents 7,500 community health workers.

“It took many years of struggle, but community caregivers have finally won recognition for the valuable role they play in our health care system by helping the elderly and the disabled live independently,” Heyman said.

Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU), said the new contract goes hand in hand with legislation passed by the provincial government to tear down the labour relations wall between the community and facilities health subsectors. Allnutt said bringing workers into the same bargaining unit will end the low-wage ghetto and second-class treatment of community caregivers.

“A single bargaining association will better enable health care unions to work together—not only on improving terms and conditions of employment, but improving the delivery of health care services to British Columbians,” Allnutt said.

Brooke Sundin, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1518, said the new contract achieves fairness and justice for workers. “For community care aides who have been making about $3.50 an hour less than their counterparts in hospitals and long-term care, closing the wage gap is long overdue.”

In addition to a general wage increase of 2% in the first year, 2% in the second year, and a cost of living adjustment in the third year, the three-year contract includes a plan for closing the wage gap between community caregivers and workers in hospitals and long-term care. The plan dedicates resources equal to three per cent of the community payroll annually to wage adjustments for as long as it takes to close the gap. The unions estimate the gap to be 25 per cent.

Other highlights of the contract, which expires March 31, 2004, include: ongoing funding for employment security provisions; additional funding for health and safety; improved scheduling for home support workers; improvements to meal and vehicle allowances; improved provisions for casual employees.