VANCOUVER– Bargaining for a new contract for BC’s health science professionals was to resume yesterday for the first time since health science professionals delivered a 90 percent strike vote to support the bargaining committee’s proposals for a fair and reasonable collective agreement. Bargaining had broken off October 31.
The employers’ bargaining agent, Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC), called the unions back to bargain Thursday. But as hour after hour passed, the employer did not make an appearance at the bargaining table. While two days of bargaining were scheduled for this week, HEABC reported at 5 p.m. Thursday that its bargaining committee could not guarantee an appearance at the bargaining table until next Friday, November 30.
“Health science professionals are the members of the modern health care team who doctors and nurses depend on to diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate patients. Without us, the health care system cannot work,” said HSPBA Chief Negotiator Jeanne Meyers.
“The government has to get serious about making sure that we keep these highly educated and skilled members of the health care team here in BC, instead of losing them to other provinces where they can earn up to $12 an hour more to do the same job with better working conditions, including enough staff. Adequate staffing levels is a critical element of working conditions since our members are working to fill the gaps created by chronic shortages. HEABC has told us there is currently a shortage of 2,000 health science professionals province-wide. All our members feel the effect of those shortages with increases in workload and stress. And every vacancy means delays in diagnosis and treatment for patients,” she said.
“CUPE members have clearly spoken and they are prepared to take strike action. The complete lack of respect for the bargaining process that the employer has demonstrated leaves us no choice but to act on member’s wishes and issue strike notice,” says CUPE bargaining committee member Chris Losito.
Under the BC Labour Code, issuing 72 hours strike notice puts the employer on notice that unions will be in a legal strike position 72 hours after issuing the notice. The strike notice is in effect for 90 days from the date of the vote, which was November 19. This means the unions have three months to exercise their right to strike.
“Our bargaining committee plans to be back at the table for the next scheduled week of bargaining December 3 to 7. We’re committed to negotiating and fair and reasonable agreement, but we need to see that same commitment from HEABC and the government as well,” said Losito.
CUPE BC’s Health Coordinator Justin Schmid says that health science professionals have issued strike notice to draw attention to the fact that HSPBA is disappointed in HEABC and the government and they hope that this action will show that health professionals are serious about getting back to the bargaining table.
CUPE represents over 500 members in the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA). HSA is the lead union in the 17,000 member bargaining association. Other unions in the bargaining association are BCGEU, PEA, and HEU.
For all bargaining updates and information on CUPE’s health sector in BC visit http://bcchs.cupe.ca/