Tentative Deal Reached for Hospital Workers

Mike CarterChetwynd Echo 
CHETWYND – BC Health care workers, including the nine employees at the Tumbler Ridge Health Centre, could see across-the-board wage increases with a tentative new contract deal reached on Monday for 46,000 BC health-care workers.
The agreement would also include a moratorium on layoffs due to contracting out for the life of the two-year agreement, and the continuation of benefits. The wage increases would total three percent over the life of the two-year agreement. The deal has yet to be ratified by the unions. 
The Hospital Employees Union (HEU) represented the staff members, secretaries, social service assistants, and janitorial service employees.
The Ministry of Health and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) announced Monday that the tentative agreement had been reached between the multi-union Facilities Bargaining Association (FBA) and the Health Employers Association of BC (HEABC). 
The FBA unions are recommending the tentative agreement to members. The unions will be conducting detailed information and ratification meetings over the next few weeks according to their own processes.
“There are 11 unions in the multi-union Facilities Bargaining Association and now that a tentative agreement has been reached, each union is going ahead with information and ratification vote meets according to their own processes and protocols… the process of scheduling the votes has just begun,” Margi Blamey, Communications Officer for the Hospital Employees’ Union/CUPE said in an email.
The list of unions the FBA represents includes the Hospital Employees Union which represents 70 per cent of the workers covered by the agreement, the BC government and Service Employees Union, the BC Nurses’ Union, CUPE Local 873 which represents the Ambulance Paramedics of BC, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 882/882H and six other unions.
Negotiations for a new deal began in Feb. 2011. The cost of benefits was a main sticking point on the negotiations, with the HEABC tabling demands in mid-September 2011 that members take on 25 per cent of the cost of benefits.
A strike vote was held on Oct. 22. FBA union members voted 96 per cent in favor of strike action.
“The FBA unions have worked hard to ensure that this tentative settlement honours our members’ priorities in a large and diverse bargaining unit, and that it meets their needs,” FBA spokesperson Bonnie Pearson said in a news release. 
However, not all unions are under this agreement. Registered Nurses in BC ratified their contract in October. There are four RNs in Tumbler Ridge. 
If ratified, the new deal with take effect April 1, 2012 to March 31, 2014. HEU members will vote on December 18, while the other unions will be conducting ratification meetings over the next few weeks.