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April 5, 2001

New contract improves caring conditions, strengthens health care unions

Unions representing 46,000 front-line health care workers say a tentative contract reached this afternoon with B.C.s health employers will strengthen the public health care system.

The terms of settlement, reached after 13 weeks of talks and limited job action today and earlier in the week, include measures to increase staffing in long-term care, improve access to training and make health care workplaces safer.

The package also includes wage and benefit improvements and will shorten the pay equity wait for many workers in a sector dominated by women.

Going into bargaining, front-line health care workers had a range of priorities to improve their working and caring conditions, says Chris Allnutt, secretary-business manager of the Hospital Employees Union which represents 43,000 members at the table.

Im pleased to say that we have a tentative agreement that meets these priorities and will improve the quality of care our members can deliver, adds Allnutt who is also chief bargaining spokesperson for the multi-union bargaining association.

All 10 unions involved in the talks are recommending that their members ratify the new three-year deal that expires March 31, 2004. That process should be completed by May 5. Members of the Health Employers Association of B.C. must also ratify the contract.

Last week, our unions negotiated a landmark settlement with employers that puts a plan in place to end discrimination against community caregivers, says George Heyman, president of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union.

That same constructive approach has resulted in a fair agreement for long-term care and hospital workers that takes concrete measures to deal with the stresses and strains workers experience on the front-lines, adds Heyman, whose union represents 2,500 long-term care workers plus 10,000 community health workers covered by last weeks community health agreement.

It took some tough bargaining to iron out this agreement, says International Union of Operating Engineers Locals 882 and 882H business manager Lionel Anker.

But in the end, weve negotiated a deal which well happily put to our members for ratification, adds Anker, whose union represents about 1,000 members in these talks.

Highlights of the tentative settlement include:

wage increases of $61 a month in year one, two per cent in year two and a cost of living adjustment with a 1.5 per cent floor in year three;

extended health benefit improvements;

$15 million over three years to provide better care for seniors in long-term care facilities;

expanded pay equity adjustments;

measures to eliminate wage and benefit disparities within the sector; and

extension of pension coverage to hundreds of caregivers at private, for-profit facilities by the end of the agreement.

Full details of the agreement will be sent to union members in the next few weeks at which point theyll be available at HEUs website: .

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For more information, contact at the Hospital Employees Union:

Stephen Howard, HEU communications director 604/240-8524 (cell)

Mike Old, HEU communications officer 604/828-6771 (cell)

You can find all our bargaining bulletins at www.heu.org