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A tentative deal between the Northern Health Authority and health unions that would have traded wage and other concessions for a six-month freeze on contracting out has been rejected.

Although 56 per cent voted in favour of the memorandum of agreement (MOA), it failed to gain the constitutionally required support of two-thirds of Hospital Employees’ Union locals affected and failed to meet the ratification requirements of the multi-union association representing affected workers.

HEU northern director Kathy Jessome is urging NHA officials to put their privatization plans on hold.

“Contracting out critical health care functions will rob economically vulnerable northern communities of family supporting jobs and break up the health care team, ” says Jessome. “While this agreement would have provided temporary protection for these jobs, health employers and unions have another opportunity to reach more lasting solutions when the current collective agreement expires next spring.”

Jessome noted that a majority of union members at Prince George Regional Hospital - the NHA’s largest - voted against the agreement as did members in economically robust northeast communities.

“Though there’s clearly support among health care workers for negotiated alternatives to privatization, there’s also a fair amount of skepticism about whether management is sharing the pain,” says Jessome. “And in those communities where the oil and mining boom has created a labour shortage in all sectors, wage rollbacks in health care will only serve to drain local hospitals of skilled workers.”

The September 25 MOA would have modified the terms of the current collective agreement covering about 2,800 facilities and support workers at 37 hospitals, diagnostic treatment centres, residential care homes, health centres and other agencies directly run by the NHA.

In exchange for a six-month hold on contracting out, health care workers would have taken wage cuts, worked longer hours and given up vacation time and statutory holiday pay during the remaining six months of their current collective agreement.

In addition to 2,500 HEU members, 300 members of the B.C. Government and Service Employees’ Union, the B.C. Nurses’ Union and the International Union of Operating Engineers covered by the 2001-2004 Facilities Subsector Collective Agreement are affected.


Contact: Kathy Jessome, northern director, 250-960-9786 (cell) Mike Old, communications director, 604-828-6771 (cell)