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Health unions representing 43,000 hospital and long-term care staff are heading back to the bargaining table with a convincing 89 per cent strike mandate in hand.

The multi-union bargaining association called for the province-wide strike vote after the Health Employers Association of B.C. tabled a 100- page package of concession demands and refused to put a hold on layoffs during negotiations.

More than 2,500 pink slips have been issued since bargaining began January 9. But despite the fact that health employers continued to issue layoff notices during the March 15 26 strike vote period, turnout was heavy across the province.

Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt, who speaks for the union bargaining association, is urging health employers to rethink their bargaining strategy.

Our members are telling health employers in no uncertain terms that they wont be bullied or intimidated into a contract that contains massive wage and benefit rollbacks and with no employment security, says Allnutt.

Well see if health employers have understood that message when we return to the bargaining table later this week.

Both sides have tentatively agreed to meet on Wednesday the same day the current contract expires.

HEU represents about 40,000 workers affected by the contract talks. Ten other unions in the bargaining association including the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers represent the remaining 3,000 workers.