BCNU recommends yes to new contract proposals

Intense weekend negotiations result in acceptable collective agreement

The B.C. Nurses’ Union is now recommending acceptance of a new tentative agreement to their members. The reversal of their previous rejection recommendation comes after a weekend of intense negotiations where health employers and the provincial government agreed to remove or modify concessions recommended in mediator Brian Foley’s December 1998 report. “Looking at the tentative agreement as a whole, there is no question that we have achieved substantial improvements, particularly in winning new government money for new nursing positions to improve our workloads and improve the level of patient care,” said BCNU president Cathy Ferguson. “The nurses were committed in their fight to have critical workload issues addressed and they were supported by HEU members throughout the province,” said HEU secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt. “The result was significant changes to the mediator’s report and overall gains for the health care system.” Along with the removal of concession demands relating to in-charge pay and mileage allowances for community nurses, health employers and the provincial government agreed to an improved process for monitoring the impact of the new nursing positions including the effect that the new positions have on the use of overtime and on the incidence of illness and injuries. And, to address the growing nursing shortage, the parties have signed an accord on the recruitment and retention of nurses. The accord establishes an advisory committee to the Ministry of Health that will conduct research and make recommendations on the deployment of nursing staff, ways to attract and keep young people in the profession and speciality nursing shortages in a report to be released by March 31, 2000. “Once nurses have a new collective agreement, HEU, with the Nursing Team Utilization committee negotiated under last year’s facilities collective agreement, will be pressing health employers and government to look at improving direct patient care through the use of the entire nursing team,” said Allnutt. The nurses’ tentative agreement also includes standardization of all nurses to the provincial contract, improvements in the long-term disability plan, and better contract language regarding the rights of casual and part-time nurses and home support agency nurses working with severely disabled clients. Registered nurses vote on the tentative agreement January 26.