HEU signs 'milestone' contract with Nisga'a Valley Health Board
New collective agreement bodes well for labour's relationship with First Nations, says union
NEW AIYANSH — B.C.'s largest health care union is hailing a new collective agreement signed today with the Nisga'a Valley Health Board as an important milestone in the maturing relationship between organized labour and First Nations.
Reached after more than two years of bargaining, this first agreement between the Hospital Employees' Union and the NVHB blends traditional contract protections with others that recognize unique Nisga'a beliefs and customs. The contract expires March 31, 2002.
"This is a very proud day for our Nisga'a members and for our entire union," says HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt who is in New Aiyansh for a brief signing ceremony. "Today we've not just signed a collective agreement," adds Allnutt. "We've also demonstrated that unions can play an important role in both supporting the treaty process and working with First Nations to strengthen health care and other public services."
The contract covers about 40 regular and dozens of casual employees including community health workers, technicians and assistants, clerical workers, health information and medical records specialists, maintenance workers, transportation clerks, and others.
They deliver front-line health care services throughout the Nass Valley from NVHB's flagship diagnostic and treatment centre in New Aiyansh and from health centres located in the Nisga'a communities of Gitwinksihlkw, Greenville, and Kincolith.
HEU has been a strong supporter of the First Nations treaty process and Nisga'a Lisims Government president Joe Gosnell was an invited speaker at the union's 1998 convention. HEU also represents First Nations health care staff who work for the Gits'xan Health Authority, the Skidegate Band Council and the Moricetown Health Centre in northwestern B.C., and the St. Mary's Band in the East Kootenays.