Strike votes prompt move in contract talks in community health sector

News release

The start of province-wide strike votes on International Women’s Day, March 8, has prompted the Health Employers Association of B.C. (HEABC) to remove some concession demands, table a counter wage offer, and acknowledge the need to address wage equality for 15,000 community-based caregivers, the unions said today.

“This is a signal the employer realizes we are serious about ending wage discrimination for women workers who deliver home and community care,” said George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union which represents the majority of community-based health care workers.

“The HEABC indicated at the table they are prepared to move towards parity for community care workers with people who work in hospitals and long-term care homes. We’re still apart on how and when we get there,” Heyman said. He added that important scheduling issues that impact the paycheques of community care workers still need to be settled.

Chris Allnutt, Hospital Employees’ Union secretary-business manager, said the employer’s counter-offer on wages fell short of the unions’ expectations of timelines for achieving wage parity. “It’s a start in the right direction, but the employer’s proposal will not achieve parity in this decade for community care workers,” Allnutt said. Community care workers earn about $3.50 an hour less than facilities-based workers.

Brooke Sundin, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1518, said he is hopeful the employer’s positive move at the bargaining table will enable both sides to reach a fair settlement before the March 31 expiry of the current contract. “We are prepared to negotiate this weekend and around the clock to get an agreement,” Sundin said.

The unions commenced strike votes on March 8 to back their demands at the bargaining table. Results of the strike votes will be announced March 19.