Health Authority as the Employer

Last week all of the unions in healthcare won our case at the Labour Relations Board on “Who is the employer” under the Facilities, Nurses and Paramedical Agreements. We argued that the new health authorities are operating as the employer, exercising power and making decisions. Therefore, seniority rights will broaden to provide senior workers with more choices.

We are now going to enter mediation at the Board on how that will be applied — i.e. what it will mean for postings, bumping and other elements of the agreement. If the mediation does not get an agreement — then the Board will decide the issues. Until that process is finished, many questions will remain unanswered, but it is important that you understand the union’s position going into mediation:

1. Why did the union want to win? Bill 29 ripped up employment security and restricted seniority rights, so the four walls of a facility have now become a trap for many. Displaced senior employees were finding that there was no one with under five years’ seniority to bump. Senior employees in facilities that closed completely had no choices.

By recognizing what is real, that the employer is really the regional health authority, we would once again be able to assert a fairer, non-discriminatory system of ensuring who ends up employed and with seniority rights.

2. Does this mean province-wide seniority? No.

3. Can I be bumped by someone from another facility or town? No - if you have more than five years’ (9,360 hours) seniority. Yes — if you have less than five years’ (9,360 hours) seniority

4. What about postings? The current Facilities Collective Agreement provides for “regional” postings — we will take the position that bumping and posting are two sides of the same coin. The system only works when they provide parallel rights.

5. Why is seniority so important? Seniority is important because it is the best protection against discrimination. Seniority is blind — it doesn’t matter what you look like or whether you are an employer favourite — you get rights based on how long you have worked. With the authority making decisions and moving services around the region, seniority began to mean less and less — and employer preference more and more. By simply choosing to lay-off one employee before another, employer’s could give a six-year employee more rights than a 35-year employee — and that is wrong. Authority-wide seniority does not take away the injustices imposed on us by Bill 29 — but it does make it harder for the employer to manipulate and deny choices to workers. Employers opposed our application.

6. How will the seniority list be brought together? Like everything else this is going to be mediated — but the union’s position will be to “dovetail” all of the seniority. If you work in more than one location in the health authority, then your seniority will be added together — with the limit that you cannot earn more than full-time hours in any year.

7. Will I have to bump to another community? The union’s goal is to create choices for workers — and in times of lay-off none of those choices are very good — but you should have rights to choose to keep employment and seniority rights as much as is possible. Leaving a community is not always something that a member can choose to do — but it is the Union’s position that it should be up to the laid-off employee to decide.

8. When will we know how this will be applied? Mediation is starting now. The decision sets out that the unions and the employer have until July 31st to agree on how it will work, and where it will be applied. If we cannot agree, the outstanding issues will go before the Labour Board again for decision. It is our goal to get this done very quickly — uncertainty about the rules is almost as hard to handle as bad rules.

9. Does this decision cover all HEU members? The decision covers members working under the Facilities Collective Agreement. It is the union’s position, opposed vigorously by the employer, that all employees working in facilities in a health authority are covered by the decision. At this point, those under the Community Health Collective Agreement are not covered by this decision. We have joined with other unions to extend the decision to these members. Members in Social Services, in out-of-healthcare-independent Contracts, or in First Nations Contracts, are not covered. We will issue new bulletins as soon as there are any agreements on how this will be applied. Watch the union bulletin board, or check with your local executive for updates. The HEU website will be updated as well.

10 How come the Union pushed for Regional Seniority without talking to members? Regional seniority has been the union’s policy for many years. In 1995, and again in 1997, HEU delegates to wage policy conferences endorsed the goal of regional seniority and directed the union to achieve it.

11. What does the boss think? The employer hates the decision. They have filed a formal appeal, and are spreading misinformation. They do not like giving workers greater options.

12. What happens to displacements that have already occurred? The union position is that the expanded seniority list is retroactive, and that workers displaced to date should have the right to exercise their options under the expanded rules. In addition, the unions’ wrote HEABC demanding that all displacements be put on hold until the new rules are in place in order to minimize the disruption of re-doing the displacements under the new rules.