Court rebuffs health bosses’ bid to stop job action

News release

No measures planned for Wednesday, but unions say job action is set for Thursday

In an important ruling that has huge consequences for bargaining for 46,000 health care workers, the B.C. Supreme Court this afternoon rejected a bid by health care employers that would have prevented legal job action from taking place.

Over the course of two days of hearings, the Health Employers Association of B.C. had argued for the Supreme Court to issue a stay pending judicial review of the order handed down last week by the Labour Relations Board that established essential services levels for B.C. health care facilities. By law, the board must set essential levels before job action can take place.

But they failed to win over Justice Paul Williamson, who said that the order handed down by the LRB already gives the employers adequate leeway to set appropriate levels. Williamson also ordered that HEABC pay the unions’ court costs.

“We’re very pleased with the decision,” says Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees’ Union, and spokesperson for the 10 unions bargaining for a new collective agreement. “It upholds the integrity of the LRB’s process in setting essential services levels. And more importantly, it upholds the rights of 46,000 caregivers to take legal job action to press for a fair contract settlement.”

With the court decision in hand, Allnutt urged HEABC to refocus its energies on the bargaining table, where talks resumed this afternoon in Vancouver. “Our top priority should be to negotiate a settlement,” he said. “Hopefully, health employers will put an end to their legal maneuvering and concentrate on reaching a new deal.”

Meanwhile the unions gave additional notice earlier today of their plan to expand legal job action to hundreds of health care facilities across B.C. on Thursday. There will be no picket lines at facilities where patient care is provided.

The contract for the 46,000 health care workers — who include Licensed Practical Nurses, Care Aides, housekeepers, technicians and other support staff — expired Saturday night. Key outstanding issues include a wage increase, pay equity and benefit improvements.