VANCOUVER—Health science professionals are scheduled to begin negotiations for a new collective agreement next week.
Health science professionals will be looking for strong indications early on that government and its bargaining agent, Health Employers’ Association of BC (HEABC), are prepared to address fundamental issues.
The Health Sciences Professional Bargaining Association (HSPBA) served notice at the beginning of this year that continuing to fall behind counterparts in other provinces is not an option. HSPBA members are seeking fairness and respect in this round of bargaining. This means fair, respectful, and meaningful collective bargaining; and fair recognition of the role health science professionals play in the modern health care system.
The HSPBA chief negotiator, Jeanne Meyers, said all the signals coming from HEABC and the government – including HEABC’s refusal to undertake meaningful work in a number of areas negotiated in the last collective agreement, HEABC’s arbitrary wage rollback announcement for pharmacists, the government’s announced mandate of freezing wages, and a health care budget that doesn’t keep up with inflation – is that HEABC and the government have limited interest in arriving at a negotiated agreement.
“The HSPBA will enter into the collective bargaining process with a commitment to the process, but, frankly, if we don’t see signs from government and HEABC that there is an appetite for free collective bargaining, we are not interested in participating in a farce,” Meyers said.
Union stewards and staff are currently involved in negotiating essential service levels. Essential services are a legislative requirement to create a balance between workers’ rights to strike, and the need to protect the public from “immediate and serious danger.” In health care, essential service levels ensure there is staff available during a labour dispute to ensure patients are not in immediate or serious danger.
HSPBA represents 17,000 members, the majority of whom are represented by HSA. Other unions at the table are CUPE, BCGEU, PEA, and HEU. CUPE represents over 500 members employed by the Vancouver Island Health Authority, Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health Authority.
CUPE’s representatives to the HSPBA bargaining committee are:
- Chris Losito, Environmental Health Officer, Vancouver Coastal Health
- Michael McKinley, Environmental Health Officer, Vancouver Island Health Authority
- Justin Schmid, CUPE National Representative