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CUPE Health Care Workers began bargaining last week, joined by over 13,000 workers employed in the Community Health sector. Talks commenced between the multi-union Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and the Health Employers’ Association of B.C.(HEABC) on January 23 with the exchange of opening remarks and the initial tabling of proposals.  

The CBA presented a summary of the priorities identified by health care workers and proposals related to housekeeping issues, harassment and bullying. Last Thursday the CBA also tabled proposals related to employer and union relations.

Pat Taylor, one of CUPE’s representatives at the table, noted that under the net zero mandate imposed by the provincial government in the last round of bargaining, health care workers’ wages have not kept up with the rate of inflation.

Over the last two years, our members have suffered a real wage cut of five percent. We must achieve a fair and reasonable agreement for our members during this round of bargaining, one that takes into consideration the sacrifices that they had to make in 2010 bargaining,” said Taylor.

At the CUPE bargaining convention in October 2011, members identified wage increases, job security, benefits and scheduling as their main contract priorities.

Taylor also spoke about the importance of community health and the savings that the sector provides in provincial health care spending.

The services that Community Health Workers provide keep seniors and other clients in their homes and out of expensive acute care beds,” said Taylor.“If our government invests in community health and in recruitment and retention of workers in the sector, it will save big money in other areas of the health care system.”

Negotiations resume in Vancouver on February 6 for four more weeks of bargaining. Additional dates have been set through to the end of March.

The CBA represents health care workers who provide home-based medically-related support services to seniors and persons with disabilities. Workers in the sector also provide community-based health services including mental health and addictions services and administrative support to home support agencies and health authorities.

CUPE represents approximately 500 members in the CBA and other unions in the association include BCGEU, UFCW 1518, HEU, HSA, USWA and CLAC.