HEU meets with Premier, Health Minister

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BC premier Gordon Campbell and health minister George Abbott are open to meeting with a delegation of HEU members representing various occupational groups.

That’s one of the outcomes of a meeting held between HEU leaders and the premier and health minister on Friday.

HEU asked for the meeting as a first step in establishing better lines of communication and a more constructive relationship with the BC Liberal government.

“We used this opportunity to speak with the premier and the health minister about the serious morale problem that exists on health care’s front lines as a direct result of crushing workloads and wage rollbacks,” says HEU secretary-business manager Judy Darcy.

“And we reviewed the impact that reduced wages and other factors have had on the ability of health employers to retain or recruit workers in many occupations.”

Darcy says the premier and health minister reacted positively to a union invitation to meet workers from various occupations represented in union ranks.

On the issue of future wage increases, the premier was clear that government’s mandate for compensation in the public sector had not yet been shaped.

“We told the premier that our union is strongly committed to the principle of free collective bargaining,” says Darcy.

“And we also told him that last year’s wage rollbacks would have a strong influence on our members’ expectations in upcoming contract talks.”

HEU first vice-president Sheila Rowswell told the premier and the health minister that union members were uniquely positioned to participate in policy discussions around changes to health care delivery.

The health minister told HEU representatives that he wants to build a culture where ideas and suggestions were welcome.

And both the health minister and premier told the HEU representatives that there are no plans for legislation in this session that would impact HEU members specifically.

Darcy says that this first meeting with the premier is an important one for HEU members.

“We will continue to disagree with the B.C. Liberals on bad legislation that robbed health care system of thousands of skilled, experienced workers and caused hardship for tens of thousands more through deep wage cuts,” says Darcy.

“But improved communication and dialogue with this government in its second term is in the best interests of our members.”