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January 3, 2011

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Tentative agreement reached for health science professionals, CUPE recommends rejection

VANCOUVER—After more than nine months of bargaining, a tentative agreement was reached on December 22, 2010 between the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association and Health Employers’ Association of BC.

Health science professionals are members of the modern health care team who deliver clinical, diagnostic and rehabilitation services in hospitals and communities throughout the province.

This agreement was negotiated under the B.C. Liberal government’s Public Sector Employers’ Council “net zero” Bargaining Mandate 2010, which prohibited contracts negotiated within the public sector to have any net increases in total compensation costs and required compensation trade-offs, essentially using the elimination of existing provisions in a contract to fund any improvements in it.

Frank De Waard, CUPE bargaining committee representative and President of CUPE Local 4816, said the agreement was reached at too high a cost for CUPE members.

“This agreement may feature some improvements, but at the cost of a vacation day and the suspension of the “general supervision” definition, which means that many of our members who are currently recognized for working without general supervision will have their wages frozen and new employees will be hired at a lower pay, “ he said.

“We recognize that this tentative agreement was negotiated under difficult circumstances, but agreeing to negotiate ‘trade-offs’ means some members pay for other’s gains and that’s just not fair, and so we cannot recommend this agreement.”

The tentative agreement includes:

• Enhanced benefits coverage
• Improved opportunities for professional development
• Greater job security protections
• Modifications to the Special Leave provisions
• Working groups to develop improved processes for disability management, on-call and call-backs
• Establishment of a committee to review and make recommendations on the classification process
• Establishment of a high-level joint committee including the Ministry of Health, Health Authorities and HSA that involves health science professionals in consultation about the health care system
• A two year term, expiring in March 2012

These gains were achieved under the “net zero” mandate at the cost of:

• The freezing of annual vacation accrual for all regular employees over four years of service for one year
• Suspension of the classification definition of “General Supervision”
• A mandatory requirement to participate in the disability management program
• Reduction of the Special Leave maximum accrual from 180 hours to 144 hours

A large number of CUPE members covered by the HSPBA collective agreement work within the community in Grade II positions, under the “Working Without General Supervision” definition. The suspension of the classification definition for “General Supervision” will directly affect these members by freezing or “red circling” their salaries and result in these positions being posted as Grade I when they become vacant.

The proposed interim “General Supervision” definition is as follows:

All Grade I positions will have access to a supervisor in the Health Authority/Health Organization in their own discipline for clinical guidance where necessary. Such access does not need to be provided on-site and may be provided in-person or by email, telephone or other means.

The impact of this change will negatively affect many of our Grade II members working in the community. As a result of this change and the other losses negotiated as part of this deal, CUPE’s Health Care President’s Council has decided to recommend that members reject the proposed collective agreement.

A full information package will be distributed to members and posted on the CUPE BC Health Sector web page for members in January 2011. In addition, each CUPE local will hold ratification meetings for members in late January and early February.

The tentative agreement covers more than 17,000 health science professionals who deliver health care services in B.C. hospitals and communities. They are members of Health Sciences Association, BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Professional Employees’ Association.

CUPE represents over 500 members in this bargaining association, represented by CUPE Locals 15, 1978 and 4816.

CUPE’s representatives on the bargaining committee are Frank De Waard, (Team Leader with Burnaby Home Health), Caroline Mewis (Physiotherapist with Richmond Health) and Justin Schmid, CUPE National Representative.

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