Comparability issue moves into crucial phase

LRB decision on HEABC appeal to be handed down by early February while union readies membership mailout

HEU members are moving into a crucial stage in our efforts to finally resolve the comparability element of our pay equity plan as union leaders met again yesterday with the health employers in Vancouver.

At the meeting both sides came close to reaching final agreement on how the more than $100 million in pay equity adjustments ordered by arbitrator Stephen Kelleher in his September final ruling on comparability will be divided.

Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the parties are close but need to deal with one remaining obstacle: what adjustments will be implemented for computer operators. This classification is to undergo a pay rate review process won by the union.

In order to overcome the hurdle, HEU is proposing that comparability money for computer operators should be set aside until the pay rate review process is completed. However, says Allnutt, employers have rejected HEU's proposal so far. The two sides remain far apart on agreeing on new maternity and paternity leave provisions that Kelleher also ordered in his comparability ruling.

Meanwhile on the Labour Relations Board front, Allnutt anticipates that the board will rule in the next few weeks on HEABC's preliminary appeal heard by the board Dec. 21. Allnutt says he is confident the appeal will be rejected. He says employers and government should bring the decades-long comparability issue to a close, and he urged them not to embark on further appeals that would delay justice - again - for HEU members.

Given the stakes in the crucial series of events shaping up for January and February, Allnutt says the union will put out a special mailing to all members providing up-to-date information and details of the agreed-to adjustments for dozens of classifications and amounts owing back to April 1, 1996.

HEU and health employers are expected to meet again in February in an effort to finalize all outstanding issues on how the $110 million comparability adjustment will be allocated.