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January 31, 2013

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Tentative agreement reached for health science professionals

VANCOUVER - After almost a year of bargaining for a new contract, the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA) has reached a tentative agreement for nearly 17,000 health science professionals working in hospitals and communities across British Columbia.

“In a very difficult bargaining climate we have reached a tentative agreement which reflects the important work CUPE health care professional do. This agreement will allow members to continue to provide quality health care services to British Columbians,” said CUPE bargaining committee member Chris Losito.

“Our bargaining team worked hard to hold members priorities at the forefront of negotiations and this agreement includes important enhancements for members that will result in improvements to the system,” adds Losito.

The tentative agreement includes wage increases totaling 3 percent, and makes permanent a market adjustment of between 9 and 14 percent over and above the basic wage rates for pharmacists.

It also achieves fairness for all members of the modern health care team by finally recognizing the work and commitment of the team of health science professionals who are there – day or night – to perform the life-saving services that keep British Columbians alive in medical emergencies. The provisions that protect the health and safety of health science professionals in short supply who often work on call, and fairly compensate those who work extraordinary shifts to deliver critical services, are a long-fought for recognition of contribution of these members of the modern health care team.

“The tentative agreement is in line with other BC public sector health contracts negotiated in the past several months, and preserves core benefits,” said Michael McKinley, a CUPE bargaining committee member, and an environmental health officer with Vancouver Island Health Authority.

The agreement brings a return to a 37.5 hour work week for health science professionals, who have for the past several years worked a 36-hour week.

The tentative agreement was achieved after two weeks of intensive discussions facilitated by mediator Vince Ready, and as unions in the HSBPA were surveying members about a provocative “last offer” the government tabled in December. After that offer was tabled, HSPBA stepped away from bargaining to consult members about next steps.

Members who completed the survey resoundingly rejected the government’s December proposals which called for many concessions, including unprecedented reductions in benefits, and a wholesale gutting of the classification system which could have resulted in wage roll-backs.

The tentative agreement reached today includes a commitment to a Pharmacare tie-in which is comparable to pharmaceutical coverage offered by BC Pharmacare, and a joint process to realize savings in extended benefit coverage. In exchange, union members will benefit from the return of a pay-direct card instead of the current system of reimbursement of payment for prescribed drugs.

The tentative agreement covers more than 17,000 health science professionals who deliver health care services in BC hospitals and communities.

CUPE represents approximately 550 health science professionals in the bargaining association. The majority are represented by the Health Sciences Association of BC. Other unions in the Association are the BC Government and Service Employees’ Union, Professional Employees Association and Hospital Employees’ Union.

The HSPBA bargaining committee unanimously voted to recommend acceptance of the tentative agreement, which expires March 31, 2014. Each of the member unions will consider the recommendation of the bargaining committee as they prepare to take the agreement to a vote by members covered by the contract.

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