Mediator books out of health care talks

News release

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Health employers won’t budge from demands for massive contract concessions, won’t put layoffs on hold during talks

Health unions are questioning why B.C.’s health employers requested the services of a Labour Relations Board mediator last week but then refused to move off their demands for nearly $900 million in contract rollbacks or put layoffs on hold during bargaining.

Earlier this afternoon, LRB mediator Stephen Rinfret booked himself out judging that his “involvement in the dispute would not be productive at this time.”

Talks for a new contract covering 43,000 hospital and long-term care workers stalled on April 2.

“I'm puzzled - and disappointed - that health employers would seek the services of a mediator when they had no intention of removing the major obstacles to productive bargaining," says Hospital Employees' Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt.

"Instead of making a serious attempt at mediation, it looks as if HEABC was just watching the clock while the final shift for hundreds of workers looms ever closer," adds Allnutt, who speaks for the multi-union bargaining association currently negotiating for a new contract.

More than 2,500 workers have received layoff notices since bargaining began in early January and 6,000 workers have already lost their jobs to contracting out since the provincial government passed contract-breaking legislation in 2002.

"With HEABC refusing to make significant moves, the options we can exercise to reach a contract grow more limited,” says Allnutt. “And the possibility for job action grows more likely.”

Health unions are still pressing for the finalization of essential services levels to ensure that patient health and safety is safeguarded. The unions have applied to the LRB for the levels to be set by April 21 at midnight.

HEU represents about 40,000 workers affected by the contract talks. Ten other unions in the bargaining association including the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers represent the remaining 3,000 workers.

-30- Contact: Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)